In order to have the students really understand and master the concept of area, we embark on a series of very challenging spatial reasoning puzzles that eventually lead us to volume.
So now that the kids have mastered (yes, mastered) the FabLab ModelMaker software, understand area, have explored 3D shapes, and also know Comic Life well I am confident they are ready for a challenge. I was given this challenge and fell in love with it. It's creator is Dave M. from Hofstra University. He is a nice man with a moustache. I did have to alter the assignment to fit this grade level and where we are in the school year by placing the math at the end of the assignment rather than the front. Meaning, they will calculate the surface area and volume once they are done rather than using parameters from the git go. The next project will do that.
So, the kids (in groups of three) have to come up with a cereal idea and then the packaging for their cereal. What they came up with was astonishing. Some groups took bigger risks than others and that's fine.
Overall, the kids did not struggle in the least with this challenge. Compromising and committing is always a challenge for kids (and humans), but the technical aspects of this challenge were well within their abilities. Had they not been as proficient with the various software we used, this would have been really tough on me as a floating facilitator.
Below are the designs and the final products. This is a great assignment that is based in math, but can easily spill into Language Arts. Assessing this project get tricky I think because there is a certain X-factor involved when judging their designs. Staying within the parameters of a challenge is easy to assess, but when it comes to giving "Berry Blast" a score it gets a little subjective I think.
What was the biggest challenge on this project for the teacher?
I think the fact that the groups worked at such different paces was hard to manage at times. One group was done a full two sessions before the last group, but they served to help the other groups problem solve so that was helpful.
What was the biggest challenge for the students?
Working in teams is always hard, so personality conflicts arise naturally. When a child's design isn't chosen sometimes they pout and want to shut down, so the teacher has to watch for that.
Was the hardware difficult to use?
Not at all. You'd be pleasantly surprised how easy the Silhouette is to use. The teacher should be in the room, but if you create a couple of "class experts" they can pretty much do it as good as an adult would.
Does glue work to hold the shapes together?
Not any glue I've found. Cello-tape works well if applied neatly. Glue would be neat, but I have yet to find one that dries quickly and strongly.
How did you end up assessing this project?
Verbal praise for each group. Since this was our first try at this, I didn't set up assessment standards since I had no idea how they'd do. Next time, I'll create a rubric with parameters and guidelines.
Great question. Our next step is to hopefully get another 4th Grade class to do this project with my class as the mentors to the other students. After that, another challenge based in math, specifically volume. I'm thinking another packaging challenge, but this one with clear parameters such as a range of cubic inches and a combination of geometric shapes (like the original cereal box challenge).
Now that we are onto the concept of volume in Math studies, let me explain how FabLab is helping kids understand, conceptualize, and play with volume.
Previously, teaching volume meant simply drawing shapes on the white board and perhaps looking at some real life boxes. FabLab allows students to solve challenges in a variety of ways and actually manipulate the dimensions of the shapes in order to see the relationship of volume to measurements.
The challenge below had two challenges: The first was to make three shapes with volumes of 50, 60, and 75 cubic inches. The second was to make four shapes that total 200 cubic inches. 26 students tried and there were 26 different and correct answers.
After playing with FabLab and just a couple more small challenges, I felt the students were ready for a new and difficult challenge - and boy did they prove me right!
Challenge: Create a design for Mr. Schwengel's Swimming Pool that will surround his lovely home on three sides and have a combined volume of 275 cubic feet (we use inches on the design as this is a scale model). Since the pool surrounds my house this means the students must combine three shapes that total 275. Using FabLab is perfect because the students can "sink" the pool under the ground-level of the house. As you can see below, the students did a wonderful job.
Assessing this assignment can be either easy or difficult, depending on how you look at the goals of this challenge.
If this is purely a math challenge, it is easy to assess. Did the student combine three shapes totaling 275 cubic inches? Easy peezy lemon squeezy.
But if this is a design challenge, things get a bit sticky as you can see below. How can I score a design that meets the math standards, but as far as the design goes would be impractical, impossible, or dangerous? I suppose imbedding these standards in the original assignment is a fix, but I love the open-endedness of the assignment.
I do love this sample below because the student stated that the deep part of the pool would be "heated by the Earth's core" and save me a ton in electricity. Very clever indeed, but I'd hate to see the bill for digging up a pool like this!