Saturday, February 4, 2012

Roller Coasters and Javelin Catching

I sat down to write this about an hour ago. In the process, I decided that since I needed my pictures from my phone, I would just upload them all and go from there. This is the point where my brain exploded and I decided to go through my photos in the iPhoto library and title all of the which point, I noticed that all of the pictures had uploaded twice. After fixing all of that, I have finally gotten to where I wanted to be an hour ago: telling you about Roller Coaster Day.

All I can say is, "Wow." I knew my kids were awesome, but I didn't realize that they were amazing engineers. Comedians, yes. Engineers, no.

2nd grade just finished up a whole big science unit on force and motion. Throughout the process, all of my team members were coming back to touch on the logistics of Roller Coaster Day, which essentially meant almost nothing to me until yesterday. I was completely in the dark, and they kept telling me, "Don't worry, all you do is give the students the pieces and let them go."

Let them go? Have they met my class? As it is, I have issues with letting things go. I put all of this to the back of my mind and merely collected the donations of empty water bottles, cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls, and masking tape. On Thursday, Co-worker and I cut some foam tubing in half to create the "track" that the students would be using. (I really wanted to use the tubes as javelins, but kept the majority of my maturity and decided against it.) That was it. Collecting and cutting 12 pieces of tubing. All the prep.

(*I did organize some of the supplies into "starter kits" before we got going. Each group received a grocery bag with X paper towel rolls, Y toilet paper rolls, Z plastic cups, masking tape, 3 pieces of "track", and a marble. The large quantity of cardboard boxes, water bottles, and coffee cans were stored in the classroom library and were shopped for on a first-come-first-served basis.)

It is a serious struggle to leave my class to their own devices, but since that was what all team members said I needed to do, I just sat back and braced myself.

This was the result:

Careful planning.

Calculated testing.

And serious engineering.

These kids impressed me like crazy. Don't get me wrong, even though they drive me crazy, I love their silly brains and senses of humor. This day was one of the first ones this year that I've had the "This is why I am a teacher" thought.
But, I mean, look at them!

This isn't even the half of it. These are the better pictures for showing what we did....but there were a whole lot of hilarious antics happening the whole kiddo stuck a box on his head and used it as a helmet for the entirety of the project. He gave it to other students and they posed for pictures together...during which he would shout, "Mr. Helmet!" instead of cheese. Wow.

Here is some more:

Their roller coasters had to have four things:
- A hill
- A loop
- A curve
- The ability to stop the marble on its own

As they put all of those elements together, you start hearing words like "position" and "friction" and "gravity" and all is right in the educational world. The group pictured below was the only one brave enough to attempt two loops. They were nearly successful; however, one of their loops was positioned where two tracks were taped together. Not entirely "loopy" so the marble didn't entirely make it through. Valiant effort though.

What I should have done is taken a picture of the clean-up. The whole day might have been wonderful and fantastic; but when it came time to dismantle and go to music, things fell apart. Literally. Tracks were knocked down, boxes kicked, water bottles thrown, patience lost....I herded them from the room as quickly as possible and returned to consolidate. My desks are set up in a rectangle around the room, giving me a big space of carpet in the middle. I begged our wonderful custodian for a stack of trash bags and then began tossing everything that had just been used in construction to the middle of the rectangle. When the kids came in to the apocalypse after lunch, their job was to do away with all of the junk.
Having tweaked my back working out on Thursday, I taped trash bags to the board (labeled for trash, recycle, and boxes) and then sat back and watched. Fortunately, I have trained their cleaning well and we were spotless in less than 10 minutes; leaving plenty of time for a debriefing and some writing about the day.
Go team.

Despite the fact that I have letting-go issues, that was a pretty excellent project. Here's hoping that I can refine some of it for next year, and make it even more successful!

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