Awesome Engineers

I'm back! Somehow taking a little time away during spring break week turned into three weeks. That was mostly due to the exhaustion of administering the state tests! We finished last week, thank goodness, so I am trying to get back into the swing of blogging.

I wanted to share an activity that we did in my class the afternoon of the first testing day. I knew we needed to do something that the kids would have fun with and that they could talk and move after spending the morning sitting silently and working on their test. Fortunately I came across a great activity; they absolutely loved it!

We started by dividing into 6 teams of three. I let them form their own groups with the only requirement being that each group had to have at least one boy and one girl. Then I gave each group a bundle of 15 pipe cleaners.

Their task was simple. Using the pipe cleaners they were to construct the highest free-standing tower they could. I told them to begin, and then timed them for about 3 minutes. I rang a bell and told them to freeze and not touch their pipe cleaners.

Telling them that their engineering firm is having difficulties and does not have enough money to fully support the project I directed them to continue working without all their resources -- by putting one arm behind their back.

I gotta say, it was so much fun watching them try to work together with three hands instead of six! After another 2-3 minutes I stopped them again. This time, their boss has solved the money problem by taking the company global. Now they are all working in Japan! Unfortunately, they all speak different languages and can't communicate with one another verbally. That means no talking while they work.

They quickly adapted and began motioning to one another and trying to model what they wanted team members to do. Most of them were doing pretty well -- right up until the next "freeze." This time I told them the company had hired translators, so they will now have all their resources AND be able to communicate easily. However, the deadline for the project was fast approaching and they only had one more minute to work.

We had great discussion after this project about what happens in the real world to construction projects. We also talked about design changes to get the towers taller (they realized it revolves around having a strong base).

All in all, a great post-testing activity! If you are interested in trying it in your own classroom, check out this link.

1 comment

  1. Great idea. Standardized tests can be exhausting.

    We enjoyed reading your entries. Keep up the good work.


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