If You Build It . . .

December 10, 2017 at 9:00 am (School Supplies) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Let’s begin by looking at first grade’s adventure into forces of motion.  Their first activity replicates much like the tale of the Three Little Pigs.  Our inquiry:  What does a push and a pull look like?  How do we know when an object has been pushed or pulled?  Some students performed these movements to give others the vocabulary ideas of moving away or coming to you.  Then, using their pushing forces and healthy lung power, blew objects with a straw across a finish line, keeping track of their data (amount of blows per time).  They made inferences based on their results that it was easier to blow the paperclip because it was light and took more blows to move the wooden block.  We reflected on this thought process during our second gathering noting that it seemed weight did influence the motion, and then segued into using our model swing made of a pencil, tied to a string, connected to a washer.  Our goal was to look at which style of force would provide the best swing.  Would it be holding the washer directly above the pencil and letting gravity due all the work or holding the washer parallel to the pencil and releasing?

Next time we will explore if the length of an object (string) will affect the force of an object (washer), as well as continue with concept of weight by adding more washers to the swing.  Predictions on which will provide the greatest swing?


Third grade’s topic is the human body focusing specifically on the skeletal system and muscular system.  Learners manipulated model legs to see how the muscle groups work as a team to extend and retract when moving legs and feet.  This is a simple contraption made of a dowel rode, Popsicle stick, tubing, two paper clips, and two rubber bands.  By moving the Popsicle (foot) up and down, students were able to see one muscle tightening, while the other relaxes.  After recording their observations and creating diagrams, they had time to explore a model hand and compare the model to their hand in terms of how it is constructed and functions.  Next gathering they will look at the model once more, determine what materials they can add to make it more realistic, then create a mechanical hand with the objective of grasping an object.


Fifth graders take learning about weather and climate to a new level.  After researching the differences between tropical, arctic, and desert conditions they selected a region in which they had to build a dwelling with a specific roof design geared for that climate zone.  Arctic region homes needed a strong enough roof to support snow (washers) or allow them to fall off.  Desert dwellings had to keep the occupants cool (ice cube from melting), and tropical structures had to keep their folks (tissue paper) dry in torrential downpour.  Prior to testing, students judged the houses made by other teams, jotting down likes and/or what they would have done to improve the construction.  Then came the test . . .


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Ask Imagine Plan Create Improve Ask Imagine Plan Create Improve Ask . . .

November 3, 2017 at 10:00 am (News) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

What’s in the box?

Model & Design

Glad you asked.  To find out you’ll need to use your sense of hearing to aid in the critical thinking process to form a judgment.  I will tell you there is  marble, which serves as the metal detector.  Since we cannot see what is inside, the marble will aid in how it hits the inside walls and corners of the box.  There is definitely something in their and it is different for each of the boxes labeled A-D.  Students had 10 minutes to manipulate their designated box independently while also taking notes and creating an illustration.  For the next 10 minutes they selected a partner to repeat the prior steps and share their thoughts and design methods, after which we collected back as a whole to share our perceived designs.  The point?  To get our thinkers thinking.  To perceive and infer without knowing for sure.  We are building on background knowledge; what we know of marbles when they hit a surface,  why/how the sound is different in certain portions of the box, what things there could be to soften or cushion a sound, etc.

Model & Design 2

This activity also served as a precursor to the next event . . .  The Cardboard Challenge.  In honor of my mother for bringing home boxes upon boxes for my sister and I to design forts, castles, body armor, etc.  This one was for you mom.  Kids could work in partners or solo.

Here are the stipulations:

  1. Students had to have a design in mind of something to build, anything of interest, and sketched into their journal.
  2. Also to be included: step by step instructions of how to piece their creation together.  This could be done in picture form and/or written expression. – Thing Lego Booklet
  3. A material list was required (cardboard and tape were provided, anything else they needed to bring in) – No Glue.  We did loop a video of the art teacher demonstrating cutting techniques to interlock pieces and had flyers for them to refer to as well.
  4. Students needed to have measurements made for the scale of their design.
  5. Last the number of pieces needed.

There is a reason it is called a challenge.  Students were given four weeks, spending a minimum of 5 minutes per day on the design process.  Some spent more time and gave more effort than others (which showed in the final outcome), and some took notes at home to paste into their journals.  On the day of the event each grade level (3rd-5th) were given two hours to construct (1:45 to build, 15 minutes to clean up).  They brought their journals in to refer to their designs and then went into controlled chaos mode.  Students that did not finish their plans by the due date were stationed in the computer lab to complete, then joined their class to construct after finalizing their designs.  Yes that put them at a disadvantage, but a life lesson to learn from.

Here is what they came up with on the day of the challenge.

Moving on . . . we have third graders taking their knowledge of the moon and expounding on it, as they develop a lunar craft able to land on such a rocky surface.  Day one was planning a design much similar to the cardboard challenge, in which their craft was engineered to hold the two astronauts (large marshmallows) and land upright.  The baseline of success was at a one foot height, then increasing one foot each time.  Watch the clips to see the outcomes.


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Side Note:  5.P.2.2 Compare the weight of an object to the sum of the weight of its parts before and after an interaction.

Our group lesson consisted of us measuring the weight of a graduated cylinder consisting in volume of 250mL of uncooked rice.  Then were weighed the rice again, only in parts of 50 mL, then adding up to see if we were close if not the same as the total weight.  Wouldn’t you know we were off by 2 grams.  We discussed what variables could have influenced this.  The two ideas that popped out were maybe a grain dropped or perhaps we were not looking directly ahead at the needle when weighing each group of 50 mL.  As a follow up the kids broke out into teams and weighed the sum of a flashlight and recorded their data.  Next the took apart the flashlight to weigh each part; the seal ring, the battery container, the light.  After weighing and recording, they compared their results to the original.  5/6 groups had the same weight for the whole flashlight as compared to the sum of the individual parts.  The 1/6 was off by 2.5 grams.  Where they got 0.5?  We’ll revisit this one for sure.  This would be a great activity to conduct at home with Legos.

You can of course check us out anytime on twitter @MrVantaztic.  Our twitter account is linked to our blog (found at the right side of the post).  Remember to hover over any of the pictures to read the captions.  Thanks for reading and subscribing.  You can also check out the newer STEAM blog (working on a sharper look) https://vantazticlearning.wordpress.com/

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Is This The Real World? Is This Just Fantasy?

October 1, 2017 at 7:01 pm (News) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Being in my new role is borderline surreal, and if it is don’t pinch me.  It’s given me this immense feeling of fulfillment and yet a desire to achieve more.  If you vision a dad and his son riding in a truck down a country road, doing what fathers and sons do, talking about things one day to come.  The dad looks at his son, tells him one day he’ll be a grown man and when the day comes to find a job that makes him happy.  The conversation is much the same as the years pass and the boy becomes a young man. Through it all the son watches his parents hold down multiple jobs to provide for the family, he hears the parent’s frustration and watches them endure to make sure their kids have lives better than their own.  Through the full time jobs, the moonlighting, and the third income the parents somehow created time to hold; through the time they took the kids to bitty ball, summer camps, the factory on strike;  through beginning their own business, and then selling it, to entering real estate and flipping of houses the son holds the phrase. Now on his drives to work the son hears the words his dad once told him so long ago as he passes the Croatan Forest, and drives over the waterways.  A smile spreads.  The goal he worked toward for the past ten years arrived as opportunity presented itself.  For the first time waking up to go to work doesn’t seem to feel like work.  He’s found the secret so many search for.  To enjoy what you do.  He’s also smart enough to know that this is the beginning, not the end.  To maintain this, he’ll need to invest more time and resources to ensure this new role develops into something greater.

With that mentioned . . . Dear readers, I present some of the Vantaztic Learning Experiences


Let’s peek in with 5th grade as these students are learning about properties of matter.  Their unit began by studying something all around us, water.  Students travelled through the water cycle transforming from the three states (solids, liquids, and gases) in a dice game created by Project WET.  Some found themselves flowing from rivers to being absorbed by plants or animals, then perhaps travelling into groundwater or becoming a glacier.  Many found they became trapped between the cloud and ocean stations while others might have been lucky to escape to a lake.  Students tallied their travels, analyzed the data, and shared individual results.  Then we collectively shared all results and wouldn’t you know the data was common amongst all four 5th grade classes with the dominate group being liquid.

After introducing the states of matter and these physical changes, we focused on the changes that occur chemically.  First the scientists listed properties of the penny including detailed illustrations.  Students removed the coverings of oxidized pennies using an acid base (vinegar) and an abrasive (salt) and then recorded the changes observed and jotting down properties of the penny after the experiment.  Following this students created carbon dioxide (a gas) by combining baking soda and vinegar.  They trapped the CO2 in a container and used syringes to measure the amount of gas produced.  Then students hypothesized how much more/less gas would be produced by changing one of the variables, meaning the amount of baking soda or the amount of vinegar.  Let the retesting begin.

As a follow-up to CO2 theme, the kids conducted hypotheses  on which type of soda would produce the greatest amount of CO2 release.  They compared soda to diet soda, lemon-lime, to diet lemon-lime, cherry to it’s diet counterpart, and Dr. P vs diet Dr.  In this activity students dropped a roll of Mentos into each 2 liter of pop.  Once the nucleation (bubbling experience) occurred, students poured the remaining soda from the 2 liter bottles into graduated cylinders to measure and record how many mL where blow out.  Results varied because one variable that was tricky for some was getting all the Mentos in the 2 Liter.  Some spilled, some got stuck in the paper made funnel, and some kids were jumpy.  Regardless all Mentos were placed in the container to make it as fair as a test as possible, but classes did receive different results (as expected in most experiments).

Below are 4th graders exploring traits.  Each tool represents a bird’s beak and on the surrounding tables are types of food that match a certain style or trait of beak.  The 4th graders researched hummingbird and woodpecker beaks to build up on their content knowledge, then made predictions as to which tool would be best suited to “eat” that given food source.  Tools (beaks): strainers, droplets, tongs, chopsticks, tweezers, scoop cup, nut crackers, scissors.  What would you use to suck nectar from a flower (graduated cylinder)?  If tearing meat from a bone (playdough off of a tube), would tweezers, scissors, or tongs be the best trait to have?  What style of beak would you need to peck at insects in tree limbs?

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4th graders also explored estuaries and how important these are to our community in terms of cleaning the ecosystem as well as in commercial fishing.  A snacking card game provided by the NC Coastal Reserve is always a hit.  Have a healthy estuary?  Add fish crackers to your estuary.  Draw a polluted card?  Eat the fish.

Third grade is honed in on the solar system.  These astronomers are developing an understanding of how gravity and inertia (something that can rest will rest; something that can move will continue to move) keep our planet in orbit as well as the other planets and moons.  The demonstration below was an easy one for the to comprehend.  They understood that gravity holds us on earth and if I poured the cup of water the water would spill out.  We tested that and their conceptualization was true.  So then, if I use gravity and inertia together I can keep the water in the cup while turning it upside down.  They were hesitant, so we had to take the experiment  outdoors to attempt.  Check the picks of the kids swinging the cup in circles, keeping the water intact thanks to the combo.

Our current project is converting the distances from kilometers to meters and centimeters of each planet from the sum.  Students are in process of measuring these distances with tape and meter wheels and cutting string to serve as a model distance.  We will then convert the planet sizes into metric for the circumference of planet models to attach to the string.

Second grade is deep into operating weather tools.  We’re calibrating anemometers, and reading thermometers.  They’re creating hypotheses on which would hold the temperature of water the longest (foam or plastic) and keeping track of their data, then interpreting the results.

First grade is tracking the movement of shadows throughout the day to recognize patterns and movement of objects throughout the day.  Check out our friends modeling with flashlights and tracing the shadow patterns made.

And my kindergarten friends (no pics yet) are improving their coding skills using directional terms as turn, forward, stop, etc.  They helped Mr. V get from point A to Point B using these terms with a number set.  I did get a bit dizzy when the direction was turn and I kept turning in place, or if they said go forward and I’d walk across the room.  We’re working on adding the number of steps and turns, so perhaps next time when we add arrows, numbers and directional word cards it will get us where we need to be.  Footage will be taken next time.  So much good to come.

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I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

September 22, 2017 at 2:25 pm (News) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


A bit behind with updates in the lab.  The pvc pipe will hold plastic bags which will be used for campus clean ups.  We’ll separate the litter, then tally what we’ve found using CMAST’s beach sweep data sheets.  From there the information the kids collect will be sent to our friends at CMAST for them to add to their study on marine debris.  Our school will be a data point for the debris collection as well as upcoming weather tracking.  That lovely pesticide cabinet is our storage unit for chemicals, which at the elementary level consist of materials such as baking soda, vinegar, borax, veggie oil, salt, etc.  My good friend and proprietor of ENC Creations made some support cleats for the cabinet to rest upon and secure from above with lag bolts.  The back of the cabinet was then secured to the wall with ten masonry screws.  AND . . .  finally those beautiful cabinets came in.  Look at all of that storage.  Teacher’s dream.  A purchase order is in the works to purchase the wall mounted projector.  This will project onto our dry erase board and has touchscreen capabilities without the screen.  The next project is to add more storage rails under the cabinets, and install a few more pieces of pegboard.  Once that is complete, it will be time to build the L-bench and order materials for the recording studio.

Someone call the A-Team.

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Erosion Engineering

January 29, 2017 at 9:00 am (News, Science) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Alright stop!   Collaborate and listen.  The Little V’s are back with a brand new invention.  Vantaztic Learning has some mad skills on the mic, but even I can’t touch the brilliance that came from these young problem-solvers.  Your mind will be blown back to the 90’s to when we thought this track was solid,

Image result for vanilla ice 90s

as you listen to these clever devils collaborate.  See the thought process unfold for yourself as the scientists explain how their prototypes will slow beach erosion.

Makerspaces Engineering Erosion Project

Some background info for our readers:  The kids spent a day to design a blueprint of how their idea would look and created a write up of how it works.

Makerspaces Engineering

Day two (this day) was focused on creation of their sketch.  Next week they will test their project to see if it does in fact work, and if for some reason not, back to the drawing board.  For our fourth event day, we’ve invited a couple of professionals from our local community with background knowledge and first hand experience in beach renourishment to visit and listen to the students as they present their ideas, discuss the successes and drawbacks of the pretesting, and share their improvements.  Suppose we’ll have to wait to add more until testing and discussion take place, so for now . . . hit the hi-hat.  Word to your mother.

Makerspaces Engineering
Makerspaces Engineering


Makerspaces Engineering

We’re back and ready to share what worked and what needed modifications.  Our guest shall be here at the end of the month.  Enjoy, we’ll back after this paid programming announcement.

Erosion Wave Model


Engineering a Way to Slow Erosion
Wave Erosion Testing

2/23/17 Mr. Rudolph, “Rudi”, stopped in to listen to the young minds share their ideas and models to prevent beach erosion.  Mr. Rudi works for the Carteret County Shoreline Protection in Emerald Isle, NC.  He shared how to combat the erosion issue with the method Carteret County uses, dredging sand onto the beaches.  Fun Fact:  Sand is classified as sand if it is between 1/16-2 mm in size, any larger and it is mud, and then gravel.  Fun Fact:  An average of 1 million cubic yards are pumped onto the beach for a given project.  Fun Fact:  If sand is the erosion problem, then the solution is sand, putting it back to where it belongs.  The kids were engaged and developed terrific questions such as, “Would my hurt the environment?”, “How much sand is used to dredge back onto the beach?”, “How do you know when too much erosion is happening?”, and “What is your favorite part of your job?”.  Super way to end the week.  We are definitely spoiled to have so many resources at our fingertips.

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Oysters: Nature’s Natural Britta Filter

September 24, 2016 at 9:00 am (Science) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Busy week for the Little V’s.  We’ve engulfed the concept of adapting and how certain traits allow living things to survive depending on the conditions they live in.  By doing this the young scientists created their own fictional bird, incorporating a style of beak, wings, feet, legs, and color that would suite the needs of their environment.  The outline and artwork is complete and will be displayed in the class.  We’re going to tie in some augmented reality tech to this project (which is like virtual reality).  Maybe we could have a gallery night, let me look into that.

Adding Oysters

Filtering Plankton



This week we also learned about how rough it is to be a sea turtle and the measures they must take to survive.  Students role played in this game of tag as land and sea predators were out to get those selected as the sea turtles.  Turtles had to complete three rounds in the obstacle course, grabbing a food/life token each time.  However, due to the effects humans play on the environment some of those tokens (unbeknownst to the turtles) were microplastics.  When turtles consume these they either choke or disrupt their buoyancy making it difficult if not impossible to dive for food or away from predators.

Sea Turtle Survival


Estuaries: Detritus Feeders

Then we revisited how estuaries play a vital role in our ecosystem and local communities.  The Aquaculture Technology Department at the Carteret Community College was more than radical to allow us to borrow some tanks, a few gallons of salt water, filters, plankton, and oysters to demo how these mother earth britta’s filter.  Science fact: one oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day.  And I thought I drank alot (of water.  Water folks.  I drink alot of water).  This was definitely a hit.  We loaded one tank with ten oysters, the other with fifty five, poured in the plankton and sat back to observe.  It was amazing to see how fast they cleared the tanks of the murky plankton paste.  Above are the scientists pantomiming detritus predators.  Can you guess which one is a fiddler crab, egret, raccoon, or red drum?

Oyster Filtration

These young minds had indepth observational insight in their journaling today.  Impressed with their outlook on today’s activity.  So what’s next?  Tons.  Literally.  We’ll be “swimming” with whales by the end of October.  Stay tuned.

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Expectations on Effort: What You Can Expect & What Is Expected From You

August 24, 2016 at 9:07 am (School Supplies) (, , , , , , , , )

Students:  Please read this with a relative, or guardian.

 As a 4th grade student, know that you will be expected to give full effort each and every minute while you are in this class.   You can expect the same from your teacher, Mr. V.  He will give you his best each day.

So what does effort mean Mr. V?  

FIRST:  In this class effort means when it comes time to complete an assignment or activity, then your full attention is on that project.  If you stay focused on your responsibilities, you will be a successful learner.  We will have many activities that are completed as partners, teams, or with Mr. V, and that’s when you’ll need to talk to each other.  There will be activities that you’ll complete by yourself, these are times when you will have to ignore someone that wants whisper or talk to you.  No matter if you work alone or with someone else, you’ll need to complete the activity on time and correctly as stated in the directions given.

SECOND: This means you will have to redo an assignment if it is not done the right way.  I know what you’re already thinking . . . UGGHH!  This will be tough for some of you, I know.  Mr. V has made (and still makes) errors all the time.  I don’t know about any of you little V’s, but when I cannot figure something out I get flushed (feel red and hot inside).  At times I feel like the world’s dumbest person, and sometimes it breaks my confidence. That’s when I know it is time to clear my head because one thing I NEVER feel like doing is quitting.  That my friends, is known as perseverance (per-sa-ver-ance).  Like Cena says, “Never Give Up”.

Sometimes we need to take a breath to clear our head, or stretch, or take a few minutes to think.  You will never be allowed to quit, Mr. V will never quit on you.  Yet instead of sulking or giving up, we’ll have to go about solving the problem another way.  This isn’t always easy, but it will be done.  Remember, Mr. V is always here to help you, but not until after you have made attempts to solving the problem yourself.

That’s one expectation, we’re going to pause for the cause and continue with more expectations in the days to come.

If you are a student or parent that visited the Meet & Greet and you have an “I wonder . . . ” moment, please leave comment below.

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Coastal Connections: Science in the Field to the Classroom

June 4, 2016 at 9:00 am (Science) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Below is a thinglink I have concocted to sum up the outreach events and partnering of local organizations relating to the field of science in which the students from the tail end of last year to the current roster have been a part of.  The roster of students of 2015-2016 have had been exposed to so many incredible resources that make our community.  It is uncommon for such a small place to have the vast amount of people working in related fields of environmental, biological, and physical sciences as it does.  These children have had more interaction with scientists throughout the school year than the peers from any region, making them stewards for our community and hopefully sparking a curiosity to pursue a career in a related science field.  In this case, it is good to be spoiled.

None of this could have been possible if it were not for a.) my colleague Lauren Daniel whispering in my ear to join her in this quest with the COHORT and b.) also the Center for Marine Science and Technology (CMAST) to put me in contact with groups such as the Coastal Reserve, Coastal Federation, NOAA, and Duke Lab (to name a few).  This thinglink will serve as my introduction to the National Marine Educators Association in Orlando, FL this summer.  I think the viewers will be impressed with what these young minds have experienced and created because of those experiences.  Please leave comments below if you feel the thinglink lacks explanation.  Just keep in mind these are only captions and I’ll be explaining the activities in depth.  I can always do the same in the comment section.  Thank you and enjoy.



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Some New, Some Old

February 8, 2016 at 9:00 am (News) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posting some new projects in the works, and some that were already mentioned (new video to view though).  We spent the Friday with a two hour delay planting the germinated Spartina seeds into containers while others constructed the first PVC greenhouse tent that will rest on our raised flower beds.  We’ll take some of the Spartina to the high school’s greenhouse, but thought we could make our own mini versions for BSE’s campus.  Plus it was a great tie in with fractions and measurement.  Who knew that what you learn in school could actually be applied?  More pictures will be added to this post in the days/weeks to come.  It took about a week to create one tent (excluding sheeting).  We still need a few connectors to run our pipe along the ridge of the roof.  They did great working as teams and measuring thrice before cutting.  I think my PVC cutter is on it’s last run.  That brackish water though . . .  sulfur egg fart.  Fifth grade teachers were popping in asking if the septic had broke in the science lab restrooms.  Photography exclusively taken by Natalie.

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Echolocation Clips Below

Interpret Movement Data
Echolocation & Tech
Exploring Echolocation

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Engineering Ideas: Irrigation

January 23, 2016 at 9:00 am (News) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Meet a group of engineers applying logical reasoning, problem-solving, and mathematical concepts to create an irrigation system to make water flow three feet (without leaking) and disburse into two separate cups evenly.  Students were split into teams to devise an irrigation company name.  These company’s were given a $500,000 budget to use towards materials needed for construction, but before being allowed to purchase, they needed a blueprint design of the construction.  Each member created an illustration and the members of each team voted on which design to use based on budget and style.  After blueprints were approved by the inspector (yours truly), they were allowed to purchase the needed items, such as plastic tubing, cups (plastic & Styrofoam), duct tape, pvc, clay.  All of these items ranged in price by foot and inch from $2,000 – $25,000.  Each company was responsible for keeping up with the budget and making modifications to the blueprints prior to changing the construction.

Prior to beginning this project, we researched what irrigation was, how the Roman Aqueducts were constructed and worked, and focused on ethical procedures – which tied back to our previous knowledge from lessons on deforestation and the estuary/dragonfly pond activities.  With every good intention there usually is some negative impact or consequence.

Irrigation Construction

With that, company’s went to work figuring out how their constructions should be made, placed, and would work.  To keep the ethical point in mind, we added a stipulation.  Teams had three chances to make their irrigation system work without springing a leak.  However if a leak occurred, a company would have to shell out $50,000 for EPA violations.  The issue the people in Flint, Michigan are experiencing with water quality or lack their of would appreciate this.  If a company was successful after three attempts they went on to become a multi-million dollar sought after mogul.  If a company was unsuccessful due to leakage or blockage of water flow, then they most likely went out of business.  However, some unsuccessful company’s had ideas to merge to pool together budget and materials.

There were many purposes to this lesson.  The subcategories are:

  • Did the students work as a team?
  • Did everyone play a role?
  • Did their system work?

Students will self evaluate their experiences during this activity when we return.  Thank you to http://www.tryengineering.org for the lessons (some modifications were made).  Enjoy their creations.

CUB Irrigation
Irrigation 3
Irrigation 4
Irrigation 4

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