Monday, March 3, 2014

Forces and Motion: K'Nex Cars Project

Thanks to the wonderful site, I was able to do this project! I requested a Forces, Energy, and Motion K'NEX set to use with my project. Visit my Donor's Choose Page to check it out! This is another project that really motivated ALL of my students! I even had fun listening to their very intelligent conversations during this project! I wish I would have recorded the discussions, you would hardly believe 5th graders could sound like professional engineers talking about forces and motion! Because of a lack of materials (I could only get one Kit funded), there were VERY large groups of 6. I foresaw LOTS of arguments, so I created a "Peace Officer" for each classroom. I let the kids vote on who would be the best candidate. If arguments could not be solved in the group, a peace officer will be asked to mediate the situation and facilitate a meeting to solve the situation. I gave the peace officers a workshop on how to remain objective, how to calm students down, and how to help group members communicate with one another (warm/cool feedback). If you are interested in the Peace Officer protocol and warm/cool feedback Stems, leave me your gmail address and I will share the documents with you.

Here are the Project Requirements and Driving Question:

Driving Question:
How do forces affect our everyday lives?

Project Requirements:
  • design a K'Nex car that travels the farthest distance without a motor
  • create a design of your car
  • include a written explanation of what forces are acting upon your car, what makes it travel the farthest?
The students researched questions I provided them. But this time, I created a page that had all research questions on it, and example STAAR questions to show how the information will be given on the STAAR test. Each student was responsible to know every single question. It was similar to a "jigsaw" where the students are experts on their questions and they teach the other students at their tables. I felt the students had a better grasp on the research questions and the information that all students needed to know for the test. 

After the research portion, I had the students build one of the cars from the K'NEX booklet. The purpose of this was not to give them an idea of how to create the design of their car, but to learn the function of each piece so they could create their own design. Here are some pictures.

Once they built these cars, the students started to discuss the design of their car. They needed to answer questions such as, "What size tires? Why?" or "Long or Short Car? Why?" The students were using the science vocabulary words they learned during their research like friction, inertia, gravity, mass, position, etc. They are so intelligent and the conversation came naturally for the students.

Students were required to use the Engineering Design Process to create the best design. They tested and retested. The students learned that to find the best design, you have to try several different designs and keep improving. Not using a motor was very challenging to the students. Some used rubberbands, others used a ramp, and while a few thought of creating a sail and using a fan. I did not let them look at the other designs in the K'NEX booklet because I didn't want their imagination and creativity to be hindered. They definitely performed to and above expectation! The boys especially loved this project. Many said, "This is the BEST project EVER!" Makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside!

90% of students passed the assessment, several students earned a 100! This to me proves student interest and what they have learned!

1 comment:

Izzie said...

This is a great project! I am happy you included the position of peace officer, as the kids learn about conflict mediation and resolution. Awesome job!