By DANI BARKEY
Chief Accountability Officer, Warsaw Community Schools
Claypool Fourth graders stepped into the roles of Marine Manufacturers, Engineers, and Business Owners. Students practiced Archimedes’ Buoyancy Principle while using all facets of STEM education: science, technology, engineering and math.
Learners partnered and created their own shipping company. Each company was allotted a $2500 budget to purchase necessary building materials to construct their boat. Building materials had specific prices and included foil, clay, wood planks, and glue.
Students were instructed: “There is currently no ship in the world that can transport the amount of cargo your company needs to ship. Your goal is to engineer a cargo ship that can meet your company’s needs. Your scale model boat must successfully hold 150g of freight.”
Acting as engineers, students collaborated on the construction of their boat and drew blueprints of their vessel. Then acting as business owners, students monitored their budget by creating a purchase order being careful to set aside money for tests and possible modifications. Students collected data after each trial to decide if changes to their plan were needed.
In addition to the construction of the watercraft, students had to determine which of the varying weighted blocks of cargo should be loaded first and how to best distribute this weight in their boat.
Students had to document their hypothesis, purchase of materials, construction steps, observations, trials, and results. Each of the groups then shared their findings and students learned that there may not be one “correct” way to achieve the goal.
However, some methods may have been more effective than others. Each failed trial was a learning experience.
In Michelle Little’s and Brock Rhodes’ classes, students talk about their dreams and the choices they need to make along the way to achieve these dreams.
Little stated, “I feel like solid problem solving skills and being resourceful are keys to being successful. STEM activities like this, not only demonstrate the importance of working together as a team, but also allow students to apply their science, technology, engineering, and math skills. In doing so, students learn sometimes their boat is going to sink. And when it sinks, it’s time to make adjustments and try something new.”
STEM activities provide the students with hands on experiences that will foster an inquisitive nature.
Claypool principal, Melissa Rees shares, “In preparing our students for the real world, we want our Knights to be leaders who can collaborate with a team and be creative problem solvers. Our fourth graders of today may be working in jobs and solving problems that don’t yet exist. Through STEM projects like this, we empower our students to take risks, make mistakes, learn from them, and build a better product the next time. We teach them perseverance… an invaluable trait in all facets of life.”