Tag Archives: structures

Building the Seed Cathedral

Thomas Heatherwick demonstrates amazing feats of design, architecture, and engineering in this TED video that I showed my 2nd graders (studying structures) this week.  After the revelation I had a few weeks ago that my students aren’t entirely sure of the importance of creativity, I wanted to be certain that they saw these examples of unique designs that defy all norms.  The favorite, which literally has gotten “oohs and ahs” from every audience I’ve shown it to so far, is the bridge.  (Go to about 3:33 on the video to see that directly.)  Almost as popular with my students are the apartment buildings near the end of the video that demonstrate that not all tall buildings are wider at the bottom than the top!

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What Every School Needs

Our elementary school is currently raising money to add a track.   Since my 2nd graders are studying Structures, I invited one of the stakeholders to speak to the class about the process of coming up with an idea and following it through.

After our guest left and we debriefed, I asked the class to brainstorm some other structures they think would enhance our school.

“An ice cream shop.”

“A swimming pool!”

“A Large Hadron Collider!”

Confused faces turned to the last speaker.  And, yes, my face was included in that crowd.

Everything I know about the Hadron Collider, I learned from Big Bang Theory, and I was fairly certain that my 2nd grader didn’t want to add one to school property so Leonard Hofstadter could bring Penny to Texas for a romantic weekend.

“Maybe you should explain to the class (and me) what that is,” I said hesitantly.

“It throws beams of protons at each other.  I watched a special on it last night,” was the proud response.

This resulted in another student declaring that he would like to see a chemistry lab on campus – one that would allow him to “deconstruct dangerous acids.” (This was the same young man who asked our guest if he had considered the “ethics” of adding a track to our campus.)

May I remind you that these are second graders?

After watching a TEDEd video about an incredibly unique rooftop kindergarten in Japan (embedded below), the students drew their own ideas for school additions.

The Hadron Collider morphed into a “Black Hole Room” with the purpose of helping you to “see and feel what a black hole is like.”  My future self-proclaimed geneticist drew a “Biomimicry and Invention Test Center.” One young lady redesigned the room next door (our Maker Studio), specifying it as a Robot Lab instead.  She meticulously drew every robot we have and included a child and an iPad as well.

I think more school districts and architects should consult young students on their designs.  Maybe adding a Hadron Collider to the blueprint isn’t very practical – but neither is building a school where the only place our students can run is the parking lot.

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Extreme Creating with K’nex

Ferris Wheel at Night

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 3.36.06 PM

World's Largest K'nex Ferris Wheel - created by Austin Granger
World’s Largest K’nex Ferris Wheel – created by Austin Granger

I decided to make up a new phrase for today’s Phun Phriday post.  (At least I think I made it up.)  To me, “Extreme Creating” is when people take something that is usually used as a toy to pass the time, and devote days, weeks, and even months to making something remarkable with those toys.  The K’nex constructions made by Austin Granger fall into this category.

The ferris wheel pictured above took 12,000 K’nex to build.  You can see more stats when you watch the video on this post from Visual News.  Granger’s most recent project, which took over 100,000 pieces, is also featured on the post.  It’s a Goldberg-ish type machine that resides in The Works Museum in Minnesota.

You can visit Austin Granger’s blog for more pictures and information.  He also has a YouTube channel, Austron, with more videos of his creations. And, here is a great article about the creator, himself.

My 2nd grade GT students are about to embark on their own K’nex journeys using the Bridges kits for our Structures unit.  I think I’ll wait until we finish before I show them how Granger uses K’nex.  It would not surprise me, however, if some of them could take it to this level some day.

Bridges

from "Bridge Constructor Playground Free"
from “Bridge Constructor Playground Free”

My second grade gifted and talented students are currently studying bridges.  We have been using the PBS Building Big site, which has some great interactive labs and suggested classroom activities.  We have also been using the K’Nex Bridges kits, and will be exploring the “Bridge that Gap” challenge (Here are some other K’Nex Challenges).  There is also a Structures Curriculum packet that is a free download from K’Nex.  Here you can find a great compilation of famous bridges. One of my favorite new resources, though, is a pair of iPad apps that allow the students to learn about different materials and types of bridges by making their own and testing them.  They are very similar.  One is called, “Bridge Constructor Playground.”  This one gives a tutorial that slowly introduces the different types of materials and methods.  Users can build virtual bridges and test them with cars and trucks.  What I like about this app is that you can have many different answers for each phase.  What I don’t like about the free version is that it has an advertisement between each level.  (The kids quickly learned to hit the “x” every time, though. ) The other app is merely called, “Bridge Constructor.”  In this one, you are given different scenarios and budgets for your designs, and must stay within those constraints to meet the challenge.  There is a free version of this app, as well, and it did not appear to have as many ads as the “Playground” version did.

We are going to add some depth and complexity to our lesson by talking about multiple perspectives and the ethics of building bridges.  The 2nd graders truly seem to be enjoying this portion of our “Structures” unit, and we may have a hard time moving on!