Friday, 18 May 2012

Trembling Towers

I've been trying to push independent investigation and learning with a number of my classes in the last couple of weeks, it's been really interesting seeing how different groups and ages respond to the various creative research challenges i've given them.

For my Year 8 group I set them the challenge of building an earthquake resistant house.We've spent the last couple of lessons looking at what design features go into 'proofing' a building in a High Income Country and how this differs to a Low Income Country. 

Yesterday's lesson brief was for each group of four/five students to design an earthquake proof building. The building needed to be at least 2 stories high (this could be interpreted liberally), they could only use the straws provided by me, paper for walls, and I dished out sellotape so they wouldn't just be sellotape buildings (and to save the worlds sellotape supplies). The buildings also had to survive my Earthquake test: violent shaking on a tray monitored by a seismograph app on my phone.

The designs were all unique and impressive. I let the pupils choose their own teams for a change, which turned out to work well with this group as they remained focused, although two pupils who are renowned trouble makers couldn't help but muck about so didn't last long, a shame as I thought the task might engage them more than usual. Each team was awarded points out of ten every 10 minutes or so based on my judegment of the effort and creativity going into their designs, this seemed to tap into their competitive spirits and push them onto to improve their designs. There were some very well thought out reinforced pillars, clever tower designs and flexible walls.

The girls' design - safest of the lot!
Today was test day. Their first task was to decide how they would evaluate the success of each building to resist earthquakes. They set a time limit (30s), how well each building could hold onto equipment in the house (sellotape real), whether any debris fell off, and if it remained up right. We wrote up the scores on the board. After each test pupils had to peer review the designs idenitying the strengths weaknesses and areas for improvement, although this worked as a good springboard to get ideas and comments going, it proved difficult to get some of the boys to focus on reviewing when they seemed set on getting the next building up for the test. 

Next time I may review when we do the peer review element, increase the range of resources available but perhaps give some pupils the resources of a HIC and some a LIC to demonstrate what can be achieved with more money and technology. Good fun though!

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