Friday was closing day for progress report grades and I should be working on my gradebook. And I have a thousand other things to do. Well, maybe not a thousand, but that is how it feels. That is how this year has felt every day so far. With a new problem based course co-taught with a teacher new to the school and the area, my learning curve is pretty high this year. But I love this class. Even though we both feel like we are only one step ahead of the kids, it is still fun.
For our opening unit/project, we had students build a cardboard boat. The boat had to carry one member of a two member team and be strong enough to paddle out to a buoy about 10 feet from shore and then back again. We asked the students to predict their waterline, but didn’t give them any instruction before the first build. They were restricted to 3 sheets of 4×8 cardboard and one roll of duct tape. Launch day was awesome.
We used two pickups to get the boats to the shore and one of them was damaged pretty badly in transport. That team pulled it together, borrowed some extra tape and regrouped with what they had. Even though the resulting boat wasn’t that successful; we feel that the students were successful. They had a challenge and didn’t let it stop them from moving forward. There was some great problem solving going on.
The next few days were spent on the science and math behind predicting waterlines. We looked at net forces and did a lab on buoyancy using coke and diet coke. And we worked through the calculations for their waterline. Most of them had a hard time visualizing one cubic foot spread out over the bottom of the boat Even though the calculations weren’t that complicated, changing from cubic feet to depth in their boat was a huge leap. But they all kept at it, because the relevance was clear to them.
After the direct instruction, we had them build again to see if they could better predict their waterlines the second time through. This time, they only got two sheets of cardboard and they had to use all of it, even the little scraps. Oddly enough, most of them used the same boat design as their first run. They just built a little more carefully. Again, launch day was great fun.
Next week they will be writing about their successes and failures; I can’t wait to see what they say. But first, we start the week with a field day to collect data on invasive green crabs, followed by a day of testing (NWEA’s). Coming soon, we will dig up seed clams that were planted last spring and analyze the survivors. There’s no time to catch my breath; before we finish one project we’re on to the next, and planning the one after that.