Sum of It’s Parts

“No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.” – Voltaire

Fifth graders applying their know-how of when something is disassembled it should (in theory) weigh the same as when in one piece.  We borrowed a NASA activity, tweeked it a bit to tie in this standard with the objective of building a satellite.  We used Legos, with each style representing a specific instrument provided the NASA list.  In case you are wondering, the answer is an emphatic yes.  Yes I weighed every Lego piece/style to the tenth of a gram.  #Ihavenolife

Moving forward:  Here is how the spiel went . . .

“By now you’ve learned the weight of an object is equal to the weight of the sum of its parts. This is true in all closed systems. So let’s apply your knowledge of this skill to build a satellite. Each part of a satellite has a specific job, and some satellites have different jobs than others. Some are used to take photos, some satellites measure gravity, some measure temperature, and there are even satellites that scan a planet’s land formations. In fact, there are way more instruments built on satellites for many other jobs not mentioned . . . yet. One thing all human made satellites have in common, is that they are made up of different instruments (pieces) that all weigh different amounts, and all of these parts need power.”

First students watched two clips provided by NASA, then journaled responses:
Video 1 – Why is a good idea not enough to build a satellite?
Video 2 – What obstacles do you need to consider before building your satellite?

Next they create a team of four people. Their job as a team is to . . .
1. share your notes from the two videos.
2. decide what you want your satellite to do.
3. make sure everyone is included and involved in this mission.
4. develop a team name.

Notes in google classroom before moving ahead (STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP: Before you can proceed, you will need a teacher’s signature next to your notes.)

“The instruments (pieces) of a satellite not only have different jobs, but they weigh different amounts too. After deciding on the type of satellite, your team will design the satellite using Legos. “

Rules (Part 1): Refer to the Satellite Instrument Data Table. This sheet will guide you on what the different instruments are called, what they do, how much they weigh, and how much power they require.

Your team’s satellite can have . . .
a.) no more than 4 instruments.
b.) be able to fit inside the space capsule.
c.) AND once assembled, the satellite must weigh between 15-21 grams.

“You will each record the instruments you intend to use to build the satellite, include the weight of each piece, and once you pick up the pieces, sketch two views of your constructed satellite (refer to the sheet provided to you). You can weigh pieces individually. You are not allowed to assemble the satellite until after your sketches have been approved by a teacher.”

Rules (Part 2): After sketches have been approved, you will use gloves to assemble your satellite. This represents how astronauts fix and operate on satellites while in space. Each teammate will have a turn at assembly or reassembling the satellite. Weigh the satellite and compare it to your recorded data.

Rules (Part 3): Shake Test. Place your satellite inside the space capsule (Styrofoam cups) and shake the capsule rapidly for 30 seconds. Take the satellite out of the capsule and see if your satellite made it in one piece.  If not this is the time to modify your satellite and retest.

Shake Test

*If time permits, review another team’s design and complete the steps on the Quality Assurance Form.

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We finish off like most activities, where student feedback is key.

  • What did you like or dislike about this activity?
    • Explain why.
  • How would you change this activity to make it better?
  • What is something you wish you could have done?
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Back In The Saddle

Our school year took a restart after Hurricane Florence, with some of the kids living in different places or with many members, to transfers of familiar faces moving and new faces joining.  Here’s to new beginnings.

 

STEM activities to get push pause on the stress, and puzzle our minds:

  • Coding mazes with Bee Bots.
  • Exploring how a statue’s shadow moves.
  • Building hats to protect our ears and eyes from the sun.
  • Solving the Hanoi Tower Challenge.
  • Building bridges to cross.
  • Using the power of air with a Vortex Cannon.
  • Rescuing one from a well, constructing a claw.

We’ll soon be back with full reports of the tinkerers and thinkerers.  Keep an eye and ear out for our multipurpose marine tank.

1s & 5s

A bit lazy on the title I know, but I’m running out of STEAM.  Get it!?  (cue crickets chirping)   Eh . . .  anyway . . . let’s take a gander at first graders who continue applying their know-how about forces, pushes, and pulls. This lesson centered on pulls with the use of weight and gravity; much like what pulls glaciers if we recount to the last post with 4th grade’s topic.  These first graders tinkered with adding and/or subtracting the amount of washers to their vehicle by connecting them via string & paperclips.  After exploration time with the vehicles and the weights, the students repeated the activity beginning with one washer, then 2, 4, 6, and 8 writing down observations between each trial as to which provided the greatest/fastest pull, and why they believed this to be true.  We’ll pick up with this activity and review our discoveries in the next post.

Gravity Pulls
Weight & Gravity

 

Moving on to 5th where our marine biologists are using bathymetric sonar technology to map the ocean floor.  NOAA’s ship, the Okeanos Explorer, uses this type of sonar which flares out onto the ocean bottom, pinging data back to the ship in a color coded scale to outline trenches, volcanoes, sunken ships, etc.  These students constructed models of the abyss and/or trenches which they are preparing for another class.  Pictures of them sampling data by use of color coded straws are models built by another 5th grade class.  The lower the straw, the deeper the coordinate.  After recording the data the next step will be to transfer the information to a color bar graph, one sheet per column (columns were from A-J).  After the bar graphs are made for each column the students will cut, and glue the data in their journals to create a three dimensional pop-up scale.  We will have pictures once this is complete, so stay tuned and until then check out the pictures and video.

Properties of Gases and Liquids

Let’s check in on 3rd and 4th graders as they tie in the basic properties of matter in the STEAM lab:

4th graders simulated the movement of glaciers across Earth’s surface using ice/sand cubes to scratch across trays covered in aluminum foil, noting how these massive natural phenomenons create valleys, mountains, and leave behind rock debris known as glacial till or moraine.  After the hands-on activity we followed up with a minds-on digital breakout about  . . . you guessed it, glaciers.  If you’ve never completed or seen one of these, it is a series of questions to unlock to proceed to the next question.  These questions include directions, vocabulary, numbers, etc.

Glacier Digital Breakout

3rd graders are investigating how air takes up space by first attempting to inflate a balloon into a bottle.  After several attempts and becoming light headed the kiddos realized that the air trapped in the bottle prevented the inflation of the balloon.  Thus, oxygen takes up space.  Poking a hole into the bottle gave students the ability to inflate the balloon by blowing the air in the bottle out, yet once they ceased inflating the balloon, the air was sucked back in taking up the space it once did.  After paired discussions, many students came to the conclusion that a second property of air is that although we cannot see oxygen we can see it when it moves something.  An air bazooka was used to model this theory by knocking over Styrofoam cups.  Challenge 1: Students built teams of three to design an air powered vehicle.  They discussed the variables teams wanted to use (long thin balloons or round, fishing line or kite string, a whole, 3/4, 1.2, or 1/4 straw).  Stipulation: The air vehicle must travel 5 yards.  Students tested their designs three times, keeping track of the distance and time it took to travel.

Air Engineering 2

 

Air Engineering

To expound on the idea of air taking up space, students performed an activity called Protect The Tissue, where a napkin or tissue is placed in the bottom of a plastic cup, tipped upside down and submerged into a bucket of water.  This demo allows students to see how air is trapped inside the cup, serving as a barrier between the water and the tissue.  We discussed how this might be helpful for people in real life.  Their brainstorming led to SCUBA diving, and submarines.  So the challenge is now to apply their knowledge properties of matter in creating a submarine.  After researching the term buoyancy, teams problem-solved to devise a submarine (plastic bottle) to float on the surface of water in a tub.  Then they had to figure out how to make the sub sink to the bottom of the tub.  After achieving these two stipulations teams worked on reaching a neutral buoyancy.  Material for this activity are a plastic bottle, cap, water, bubble packing wrap, and rubber bands.  We are still testing the subs, so content will be added after the naval fleet has accomplished their mission.  Until next time.

Air Engineering 3

If You Build It . . .

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 . . .

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

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/

Is This The Real World? Is This Just Fantasy?

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 the 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 blown 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 them to comprehend.  They understood that gravity holds us on earth and if a cup of water were to be poured upside down, 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.