I think this would definitely be true of the activity I did with 4th graders today - building catapults. I found the activity through the Strawbees app (and also online), and thought that it would be perfect for the 4th grade class that I will be working with throughout the year. A couple of weeks ago, they did a spaghetti challenge where they were given 20 spaghetti noodles, 1 yard of tape, and 1 marshmallow. They had to build the tallest free-standing structure that had a marshmallow at the top. The teacher and her student teacher said the kids had a blast with it, so I was even more excited for the catapult challenge.
Ready, Set, Catapult!
HOW MIGHT WE engineer functional catapults to complete tasks?
- Construct a working with limited resources catapult
- Employ engineering and design concepts
- Experiment and test throughout the design process
It was so fascinating to watch the students build their catapults, but was even more fascinating was the conversations that could be overheard as they were working. One group had 1 girl and 2 boys, and at one point, the girl in the group commented to the teacher that this was the first time she had worked in a group with boys where they actually listened to her thoughts and let her show ideas she had. <Insert teacher heart melting here!> The teacher also noticed for the second week in a row (during our activity) that a student who has had some difficulties connecting with other students was able to work successfully with the others in the group and the group respected him as a part of the team. <Again, insert teacher heart melting here!>
At the end of the activity, we had the students gather together on the floor and we gave them the opportunity to launch their (eye)balls at the Mountain Climber target. We gave each group 2 attempts and marked each one with masking tape to show their accomplishments. Well, except for 1 group whose ball launched further than the target - HUGE congrats to them because I personally shot mine backwards more often than forwards!
Although we gave them a bag of resources to use, it was so fascinating to see that every catapult/slingshot was different. Those kiddos worked hard and you could tell from their involvement and conversation that they enjoyed it!