By Monique Zander, Teacher - Intermediate, Lynnmour Elementary School
Have you ever enjoyed the art of a functioning system of working parts that transfers energy to perform a minor task? Check out Rube Goldberg machines. They are a fun introduction to Applied Design (and Core Competencies) in the classroom.
Our Big Idea was 'Skills are developed through practice, effort and action.' After learning about Simple Machines and Newton's Laws of Energy, our grade 4/5 class researched Rube Goldberg Machines.
We defined the purpose of a Rube Goldberg Machine: A crazy, fun, almost pointless way of executing a simple job- like turning on a light or pouring a cup of water. Then…we generated potential ideas.
Our class collected recyclables (paper tubes, cardboard, clean plastic cups, thread spools…). We outlined team plans and listed materials we would need in addition to our recycled materials (string, tape, strong scissors…).
We built. We had failures. We had successes. We tried something else. We modified. We tested. We kept at it.
We shared our projects with visiting classes and celebrated when the machines ran as they were intended and articulated to our visitors why we thought our machines did not work.
Students reflected on their learning in Applied Design and then in the Core Competencies, specifically in the areas of Communication and Social Responsibility.
The Core Competency reflection included some of the following questions: What does collaboration look like? How well did I collaborate with others in my group? How do I know that I/my group was successful? What matters most about our project?
Some of their answers included:
"What matters most is that we kept trying new ideas when our project got stuck."
"Collaboration looks like working together and speaking respectfully and listening."
"I know that we were successful because we created a working project even if it is different than what our first idea was."
"I know that our group was successful because our project mostly works but I can't stop thinking about it! We keep talking and trying to make it better!"
Students dismantled their projects in pieces. Some parts were brought home, and the rest was easily sorted into the recycling.
It is exciting to hear about the connections students have made to our classroom projects. Several students have continued to build at home. Others have continued research on Rube Goldberg machines and every student keeps asking when we will build again.