Hey Teacher Bloggers,
I wanted to share with you the building unit I just finished teaching my students. We had been working on testing materials and designs as well as building with a variety of materials and designs. Instead of having my students complete building and testing tasks out of context, I create a fictional character name Mr. Smithwick who has hired my class to complete these tasks for him. I used the program xtranormal to introduce Mr. Smithwick.
Of course I had the question, "Is he real?". My response was always, "You saw him. That is exactly who he is." I still think some of them are still confused.
I divided my students into 6 different building companies. They were asked to come up with a name for their building company and then assign a CEO, a secretary and a treasure. (I only have 18 students in my class, so each person received a job. Next year I may add board members or vice-president).
Here is the expectations for each job:
CEO - makes sure things run smoothly. He/she is in charge of managing the group and overseeing the work before the data or project is handed in.
Secretary - reads the letters and communicates with Mr. Smithwick.
Treasure - keeps track of the finances and holds on to the cheques before they are deposited into the company bank account.
Every day the students were given a job from Mr. Smithwick. The tasks were all pretend community projects that Mr. Smithwicks company had been hired to do. Each activity taught a different building concept or had the students test and compare materials.
The tasks were delivered in an envelop or package. I had my school secretary in on the project and she would often call one of my students down right before our science class started for a special delivery. The package contained a letter identifying what was needed to be done as well as the supplies and the promise of being paid. The students only earned the full amount of money if their observation sheet was completed properly. Previous to this, we had talked about fair tests. Almost each task required that students create a testable question, hypothesis, draw and label their observations and write a conclusion. If all of this was completed properly and thoughtfully, they received the full amount. If not, they only received a portion.
With every new package, Mr. Smithwick sent the cheques from the previous job. My students loved receiving these cheques and made sure the treasurers recorded the amount in their banking pages. Of course groups were paid differently according to their quality of work.
The Final Project (aka the assessment piece)
When all the jobs were completed, they received the final task of building a model bridge for Mr. Smithwick. This required the students to use all the knowledge that they had gained from the building tasks to design and construct a stable bridge that spanned 30 cm and could support 4 kg. (We also spent sometime researching different types of bridges.)
The catch was that each group had to use the money they earned to buy the supplies to build the bridge. Groups calculated the sum of their cheques (income) and brought it to the Bank of Ward to deposit it into their account. After doing this, they received a company credit card as well as a spending recording sheet. I instructed my students to keep close tabs on their spending. If they went over their account limit they would be in debt. If that happened and they failed to pay their credit bill, the bank would repossess some of their materials.
Mrs. Ward's Extremely Expensive Supply Store
After carefully planning out their bridge and identifying the supplies they would need, groups visited Mrs. Ward's Extremely Expensive Supply Store and purchased their materials. I had given them a list of the materials available as well as the price of each materials so that students could budget. When they came to the store they received a receipt and used this to keep track of their spending. If groups bought materials but wanted to return them, they could do so if they could guarantee that another group would purchase it.
The store was open all class long.
My students loved this project. They learned so much more than just what design shapes are strong. I am sure this model can be used with different curriculum as well. If you give it a try, or if you have done something like this in the last, I'd love to hear about your experience.