Ok- I admit it. I had “bloggers block”. I started a few posts since school ended, but they lacked spark and never really came together. They mostly focused on some frustrations that I had at the end of the school year. It felt good to write about them, but I just didn’t see the point in trying to flush them out to publish them. So, after a few weeks of rest and relaxation, and a few hours with some students, I am inspired to write again.
Yesterday was the start of our 2nd Annual Engineering and Science Academy at Hamden Hall. Over 150 students applied for the 32 spots we had in the camp… WOW! Last year was an amazing teaching experience for me (see post here) and I was looking forward to getting started.
This year, my plan was to work with one of the science teachers on the first day, guiding students in some research on bridges, and then to complete some kind of computer activity (possibly using Google Sketchup) where students could work on a preliminary design of a truss bridge they would eventually create out of linguine and test for its strength. The remainder of the week, I would work with Sarah Ludwig, helping the students to design computer games using Scratch.
In preparation, I began looking around for websites on bridge design that were appropriate for students in grades 6 – 8. I found some good ones, but struggled with how I would share the links. Typing individual URLs is so burdensome. I couldn’t share them via email and I thought of creating a wiki and posting the links there, but I didn’t have one set up already.
Then, as luck would have it, this past week’s #isedchat topic was “What are effective ways to curate resources for students and faculty?” Scoop.it was mentioned as an easy, interesting, very user-friendly way to share. So, I decided to give it a try. Literally, within 5 minutes of signing up, I had this page ready to share.
SO EASY! YAY! and the URL was very easy for students to type. Part one of the plan was done!
After watching a YouTube video on creating a bridge using Google Sketchup, I realized it would be WAY too hard to do in the 25 minutes I had. So, I went to google and typed in “bridge simulator” and up popped “West Point Bridge Builder“. I had heard of this program a while ago, but I didn’t make the connection until now. Within minutes, I downloaded it, and was designing my own truss bridge.
This is exactly the type of bridge that students would be creating for the rest of the week! It even allowed users to test their design, and learn how to strengthen the weak areas using different materials and supports. How perfect was this?!
Students arrived in class and things went EXACTLY as planned. We watched the Tacoma Bridge Collapse, talked about different types of bridges, and the students dove into their research. After 20 minutes, they were ready to start designing. This was amazing to watch! With about 3 minutes of instruction, the students were designing and simulating and correcting and re-trying their designs, learning all along the way. It was a blast!
To quote John “Hannibal” Smith from the 80’s TV classic, The A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together!” What a great day!
….and I can’t wait to see the linguine truss bridges to their completion!