Thursday, March 13, 2014

2017: Innovation Block (Formerly Known As Science)

About a month ago I made the mistake of reading Sugata Mitra's book (see previous post) and Dr. Tony Wagner"s book on Innovation at the same time.  A person cannot read that many radical ideas at once without being changed.  This mental shift occurs at the same time I am forming my image of what elementary science would look like by the 2017-2018 school year.  To help bring that image to life, I decided to write a narrative account of it.

2017:  Innovation Block
(Formerly Known as Science)
Paige and her project group barely had time to finish eating lunch.  They could not stop talking about how they would  solve the problem with their electromagnetic release system.  Earlier in the week, Ms. Johnson introduced the Automotive Engineering unit like the other units by giving students the problem statement.  This included the project constraints and Gantt chart (project timeline).  Students were allowed to pick the initial work team knowing that they would be reorganized after the first build.  

The class took the first lesson to design the car and take the pre-test.  These never felt like tests to Paige.  The questions were worded to align with the goals of the project.  The questions helped Paige to focus on what was needed to improve the car design.  Yesterday, Paige and her team built a car based on their designs.   Half way down the ramp, the back wheel fell off Paige’s car.  The car swerved awkwardly as it came off the ramp; the back axle dragged on the ground.  It was a rough start, but better than some of the designs students made.   During the weather unit, the hurricane barrier Paige’s team made did not stand up to a Category I storm the first time.  By the end, it survived to a Category IV. 

That’s what Paige really liked about her innovation block.  There was always time to improve on her original design.  She learned that this was even how real engineers worked last year when she was able to Skype with a Materials Engineer from BD Diagnostics.   After their first build, Paige used her laptop to submit a video recording of what went wrong with the car and some ideas on what needed to change.  She was really looking forward to seeing how far and fast the car would go. 

During next class, Ms. Johnson organized the groups based on how students did on the pre-tests.  Paige was always a little nervous when this happened.  Each time groups were formed; there were always one or two people with whom she had not worked before.     It always seemed to work for her because everyone in the group had about the same level of knowledge as she did.  She had some background knowledge on science from what she saw on TV and what she learned in Kindergarten through Second grade.  She remembered some of the ideas she was taught in Kindergarten about how heavier objects rolled farther than light objects.  This project felt like an elaboration on those ideas.

Today, Paige’s team was trying to work out how the electromagnetic release system worked.  This was an important part of the project.  If the car did not release correctly, the time would not be very accurate.  They were doing a lot of math in this project.  They had to calculate the speed of the car even though they were going to use a photogate.  Estevan asked “Why do we have to do the calculations if the photogate will do it for us?”  Ms. Johnson responded by asking “How do you know it is accurate?”  It was sometimes hard for Paige to know when she was doing science or math during the innovation block.

One of the constraints the teams had to work under was that they had to understand how the electromagnetic release system worked on their car.  Paige’s team decided one big paperclip would be enough to hold the car in place, but they found out the magnetic would not hold the car at the top of the ramp. They needed to come up with a better solution.   To start the lesson, the team recorded their initial claim about how the electromagnet worked in their interactive notebooks.  Paige thought best using pictures and drew a diagram showing a magnet plugged into the wall.  She was not sure how the electromagnet worked.
The team turned on their laptops and logged into BCPS One.  They found the content for the magnetic forces and read the introduction.  There were several options for this lesson.  There was a great BrainPop video that talked about magnets.  Paige liked these but decided to start with the Discovery Learning simulation.  She needed to manipulate the strength of the magnet.  Ms. Johnson stopped by and asked the group how much they accomplished on today’s lesson. She used her laptop to record everyone’s progress and moved to the next group.   After viewing the video, the team decided that they needed to do the hands-on portion of the lesson. 

Paige always liked the “Experiment” objects in BCPS One. The Office of Science produced short videos that introduced the lab and provided a list of materials.  When they were ready, Ms. Johnson would give them the materials they needed.  In this case it was just a battery, wire, nail and some paper clips.  The team built an electromagnet by wrapping the wire around the nail and touching the wire to the battery terminals.  She was amazed when the paperclips were attracted to the nail.  She recorded her findings in her interactive notebook.   She liked looking back through her notebook to see how much she has grown from the start of the year. 

Ms. Johnson told them it was time to complete their work for the day.  Paige’s group completed their experiment and responded to the wrap up question in their interactive notebook.  Paige snapped picture of her introductory question and wrap up question for her e-portfolio.  Ms. Johnson would look over her responses and give her feedback. Paige was anxious to tackle her wheel problem tomorrow.  It was not going to fall off next time!  

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great day for Paige. Integration is so realistic. I like the change in terms to remove the "silos".