Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Seismic-Safe Buildings!

"Cause it's all about the base, about the base...no tremble!"

This is the adaptation to the popular song that my 8th graders are singing in class as they work busily to construct a tower that can withstand seismic activities on the shake table. On Thursday, October 16th, students were given their latest engineering challenge that connects to our Earth Science study.

The general prompt is:

Create a model building that can withstand various types of seismic waves on our shake table.
The building must be taller than 30 cm, lighter than 3 pounds, and have a base between 225 cm squared and 324 cm squared. Students also need to have a base floor and a top floor that can support a 100 g mass. All this has to be created from materials such as popsicle sticks, cardboard, tape, and straws. Students can "purchase" extra materials, like additional duct tape, marshmallows, Legos, littleBits components, and more with their @lacrossescience Builder Bucks. Of course, they are welcome to bring in other materials. Awards will be given for creativity, withstanding the most force, and being the tallest structure. Students also can get bonus points for utilizing our littleBits components in their design. For example, students can set up buzzers, lights, timers, motion sensors, and more!

Setting students up for this challenge:

This involved some beginning research with some great apps and web resources. To learn about earthquakes and seismic waves, we viewed a National Geographic video and shared ideas on Schoology:

Then, we explored earthquakes with the US Geological Survey site, and students found other on-line resources to add to their understanding. Our book has a phenomenal section on how to design seismic proof building. So, that was another fantastic resource! After all the research, students used their Blogger app to write up posts. 

Here are a few sample posts:

Ready to build and diving in:

This is were we are currently working...
Students were thrilled to begin testing their ideas and building! Just building...using tools...working together. What a cool environment the lab became! I watched students using math to measure, figure out the area of their base, and negotiate purchases with their @lacrossescience Builder Bucks. Students are now assembling and shaking their buildings to test the sturdiness. They are modifying designs and working together to brainstorm solutions. One of the best parts...power tools and saws! Students are loving the process of building! One student even gave me a demonstration of how to use the compass app as a level! Nifty little trick that I didn't know about! Check this out HERE!

These are just some of the snapshots of the classroom! 

Where do we go from here?

As students build and test their designs, I will continually ask them to think aloud, share, and develop those STEM skills. Questions relating to area, types of seismic waves, electronic configurations, and more will be thrown at the students! As students work, they will develop a Keynote presentation sharing their design with text, images, and video of the building on the shake table. While the buildings are on the shake table, we will use an app called iSeismometer to gauge our force. We will also utilize the SloPro app to closely evaluate the structures movements. From this experience, students will work through a Nearpod lesson in which we finalize the concept.

I can't wait to share our shake table competition on Friday with the student Keynote presentations!

Interested in this activity? The Ohio Department of Education has a great resource HERE.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wow...That Happened!

I've been on a bit of a hiatus from writing and sharing my learning due to a pretty cool event...

I've moved from 5th grade science to 8th grade science. The opportunity came up, and I'm a firm believer that a good challenge should always be welcomed. We grow and develop as educators when we step outside of our comfort zone. And, I have DEFINITELY jumped outside of my comfort zone!

With the first 9 weeks almost upon us, I thought I would record/share a bit of my learning journey in this new position, working with the new content, and learning with my new partners...8th grade scientists!

Lesson 1- While I worked with these students in 5th grade, they are definitely NOT the same learners. They have grown, experienced much, and (sort of) matured! I learned this lesson the first day as I was attempting to write their locker numbers in their agendas. One student very politely turned to me and said, "We can do a lot of these things, Mrs. LaCrosse."

Lesson 2- The excited, full of life, and ready for a challenge group of students that I met in 5th grade are definitely still there. They are somewhat hidden under a layer of hormones, extreme concern about grades, and skepticism. But, they are there! I noticed this during our engineering challenges, our sidewalk chalk artwork, and our field trip to Stone Lab.

Lesson 3- I have SO much to learn! Content, content, content! With so many fantastic resources, it is a bit overwhelming, but I am loving it. We have explored life science content with a field trip to Stone Lab, an iTunes U course, and a wonderful iBook series, Life on Earth. The Life on Earth book series is amazing with wonderful interactives and solid content! Students enjoyed the learning with these tools, and we had some fantastic reports created.

Lesson 4- I don't have to do it all! My iTunes U course was a bit stuffed with activities. I tried to stuff every idea into the course, and that was a mistake. So, lesson learned...it will be a long year to explore science with all the great tools at my disposal!

Lesson 5- Staying true to some of my iPad faves is a good call! Regardless of 5th grade or 8th grade, some tools are just amazing resources in the classroom. So, here's a quick run down of those apps that have made the jump (because they are just awesome tools)!
  • Socrative App- Great for exit tickets, quick checks, and students asking questions anonymously.
  • Blogger App- Getting those kiddos writing about science and sharing ideas on their own blogs!
  • DrawingPad App- Avoiding the standard stealing of images from Google...draw it please! And some beautiful images have resulted!

  • Toontastic School Edition App- Students still love storytelling in science! I used the app for option in assessment and received some GREAT toons. Here is one of my faves...

And...so much more!

I'm learning a lot, loving teaching, enjoying my students, and thrilled to have access to so many great tools!

More to come as we explore 8th grade science!

Seismic-Safe Buildings...Preparing for Learning

Before beginning our engineering task to design seismic-safe buildings, I asked my 8th graders to do a little research on the topic. Using their book and other resources on the iPads, I am requiring them to compose a blog post in which they share their understanding of seismic-safe buildings. So, to evaluate the process, I am constructing my own blog post!

I honestly know very little about what makes a building more prepared for seismic activity. I imagine that it has to do with allowing for flexibility in the areas that attach. I also think that the materials that we would use in Ohio for our construction are probably much different than the materials used for these buildings. Other than a generic knowledge on the topic, I don't have much!

The section in the book about seismic-safe buildings is full of great information on how to protect buildings from earthquake damage. The overall idea of reinforcing to make stronger and less likely to snap is found in many features. The features not only strengthen, but also allow the building to move or protect from the energy of seismic waves. Some ideas are shear walls to transfer the energy down, tension ties to absorb and scatter the energy, and base isolators to prevent some of the energy from the ground from even entering the building. These look like shocks at the bottom of the building. The cross braces are found all around the building. Finally, the dampers are like shocks found on a car, and flexible pipes are able to bend and pass energy through them. While these are costly measures, they can definitely help a building survive earthquake shocks.

I did find some more information on-line about building safer homes. The goal is to protect the building from movement that occurs in a side to side motion, as well as an up and down motion. So, balancing the load to resist both motions is a good idea. Also, the actual ground that the building is on does matter. Softer ground can actually allow the building to just sink in! Using lighter materials, bracing throughout the structure, and materials that have some bend/yield to them is recommended.

I am excited to see the buildings that we come up with. I am thinking that offering a mix of materials will allow students to test out some of the ideas from the research that they have done. Using both straws and Popsicle sticks, plastic and card board, marshmallows, and various other scrap material should make for an interesting set of designs. I think students will focus on building a very solid base, as this was stressed in several resources. Playing with the height of the buildings will be interesting!