Hands-on Engineering and Modeling

What does the ecology of a kelp forest and the physics of heat have in common?  In the Acorn Room, they are both opportunities for hands-on exploration.

To culminate our study of heat, Grade 3 students are designing heat traps from recycled plastic containers and busily recording the process in their science notebooks.  Engineering projects like this one give students the opportunity to incorporate their science content knowledge into the design process.  Students will design, test, then redesign and retest, helping them see what innovation looks and feels like.  It is inevitable that we will discover new ideas in this process, and we might even come up with a patent-worthy idea.  These activities make use of easy to find materials that translate directly to students’ lives.P1020953

To better understand the kelp forest, students first build almost life-size models of kelp.  Fourth graders use recycled materials whose functions compare with the functions of a part of kelp anatomy (ie. corks for air bladders), and students could be heard discussing the accuracy of their model using new vocabulary as they worked.  The best part of the whole thing?  Students have a chance to think creatively about representing anatomy with accuracy, plan and work together, and build with their hands.  At the end of one hour, students had constructed beautiful models of several algae types found in a kelp forest.  Constructing models helps scientists better understand relationships within systems, and strengthens the relationship between student and the science content.  Next- the animals!