It felt like I’ve started the first class of each Disco week this fall telling the students this: “So, this week we’re going to try something I’ve never done before and I’m going to be learning how to do it right along with you. I’ll have some ideas about how to get started, but I know you’ll discover some great tips to share with your classmates and me. It might get messy and we might experiment with solutions that won’t work, and do things that we’ll have to be taken apart, but I know that we can support each other learning new things.”
It’s not always easy to be experimental in this way. It becomes an act of vulnerability, especially as a teacher. What if the whole project is a flop? What if the students aren’t ultimately successful with their challenge? What if I need help? Fortunately for all of us, these new explorations into our Discovery Center’s curriculum scope were engaging, hands-on learning experiences at their finest. Take a look:
The second graders practiced drawing and cutting out patterns to outfit their skeleton dolls with custom clothing. They also created personalized name plates for their dolls that were laser cut in the Disco. Finally, they engineered wood and wire to stabilize their skeletons. And while the creation of the skeletons has been an ongoing yearly project, the depth of integration with the Disco and the classroom made this a truly collaborative and forward thinking challenge. The skeletons are currently residing upstairs if you’d like to have a closer look.
The third graders on the other hand, completed a project I’ve been curious about for years: that of paper circuits. Using an LED light, copper tape and a coin cell battery, the third graders designed parallel circuits to light up 2 LED lights as eyes for their skeleton or pumpkin faces.
The fourth grade teachers and I are hoping to expand the Ocean Day project (laser cut, arduino controlled, light up fish) we did last year by adding motion to the project. As a way to introduce the concepts of mechanical motion, we thought building an automata would provide a solid introduction to movement. Students were able to build their initial prototype using cardboard, foam, skewers and craft supplies. Once they had some time to experiment and engineer their creations, students were then given the opportunity to laser cut another automata or continue working on their original prototype. The results were truly inspired.
I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to explore pushing the boundaries of my own knowledge, meeting the interests of our students and collaborating with other teachers as part of the Discovery Center’s evolving scope and sequence. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.