Our class participated in the "Protect the Popsicle" engineering project with Mr. Musselman from the Burlington Science Center. I have been working with Mr. Musselman to design lessons for the new Weather and Sunlight unit that will be taught in Kindergarten next year. We decided to try it with our class this year to see how it went and what we could do differently next year. Our class was the first to try the project and we had great success!
The students were presented with the task of building a shade structure that would protect a popsicle (freeze pop) from melting so quickly on a sunny day. The students did a wonderful job using background knowledge, being creative, and working cooperatively in small groups to design and build shade structures.
The first step was to make a plan. The students chose which materials they would use and drew sketches of the structures they planned to build.
Next, the students shared their ideas with their group mates and then started building! They used black paper, white paper, popsicle sticks, clay, and tape. The tricky part was getting the structures to stay standing! It was fascinating for me to walk around and engage the students in discussions about why they were or were not using certain materials or why they were building it a certain way. It was fascinating too, to hear the students "respectfully disagreeing" with each other as they attempted to mesh all their ideas together into one structure!
We couldn't test out our structures on the same day that we made them because the sun was hiding behind a bunch of clouds. This past Wednesday was the perfect day for our test, though. The temperature was cooler but the sun was still shining. The students discussed the best position for their shade structures and determined how to put their popsicles in the shade. We put one popsicle directly in the sun so we could compare it to the others. While waiting for the popsicles to start melting, the students shared design details and predictions with the rest of the class. They seemed proud to share and excited to see what the results would be!
The popsicle that was left in the sun started melting rather quickly. It only took 10-15 minutes for it to turn into a lot of liquid! Mr. Musselman and I helped the students pour the liquid from their popsicles into graduated cylinders so we could compare the amounts of liquid from each popsicle. The popsicle that was left in the sun had 35 mL of liquid and the others (that were protected from the sun) had only about 10-13 mL! The difference was significant and showed that the students has successfully built structures that protected an object from the heat of the sun!
The students recorded their results and compared amounts. They also participated in a discussion about how they would modify their shade structures to be even more effective and what we can learn from this experiment. I was impressed with their ability to make applications such as "Wearing darker colors on a sunny day can make you warmer," and "It's better to wear lighter colors when it's hot."
The students in Room 115 made some great scientists and engineers! They enjoyed the hands-on experience and commented several times on how much fun they had! Hopefully they will remember and apply what they learned this summer on those really hot days!