Grade 7 Bridges Project

This project was one of the most challenging learning experiences I have facilitated, but it was also one of the most rewarding. With the encouragement of admin, our team decided to throw out our schedule and devote an entire month to this cross-curricular project. We began this project by doing a fun activity where students built towers out of spaghetti and marshmallows. Students tried many different approaches, and through some trial and error, were able to identify some strong shapes to use to construct a solid structure. A reflection followed to help them think about what processes they went through to be successful.

Spaghetti Tower Challenge – Spaghetti Tower introduction with reflection assignment.

After this challenge, we began building a knowledge base of structures with the end game in mind of creating a strong, popsicle stick bridge. An area we focussed on to help understand the purpose of gaining this new knowledge was by utilizing the building of the Walterdale Bridge in Edmonton. We were lucky enough to have the project manager come and speak with our students about some of the challenges they were facing with the building of the bridge. Students were very interested in the variety of obstacles, everything from supplier problems for the materials to having to preserve aboriginal burial grounds around the site of the build. We then went on a field trip to visit the construction site and take some observational notes about the construction process as well as look at some other structures, like the High-Level Bridge, to see the real application of the terminology we had been learning. Students took notes and completed scientific drawings of the structures they saw.

Bridge Field Trip – Observations worksheet students used while on the field trip.

Now students began the final process of the unit; constructing their own model bridge to replace the Walter Dale Bridge. Students took on different roles including a historian, a structural engineer, a materials expert, and a design chief. They completed research based on their role and came together to provide feedback for each other every day. We were extremely lucky to have a group of 5 engineer students from the U of A volunteer to come mentor our students throughout this process. They provided expert insight and advice and even agreed to help “judge” the final products. The final product included research, blueprints (to scale), a proposal letter to the city, a company philosophy, and their model bridge. Students applied their scientific knowledge, learned how to write persuasively, researched the historical significance of the bridge’s build location and collaborated to complete a major project. The building process itself was very fun. We had students “pay” for their materials and record a budget which included calculating taxes and labor costs. On the final day, our engineers went around and each group presented their proposal while the engineers graded their blueprints, overall design, materials use and final costs. Afterward, we tested each bridge to its breaking point by applying more and more weight. It was fantastic to hear the students explaining where the bridges were failing while using correct terminology and have a blast while doing it.

Bridge Project – This is the entire document for the final bridge project, starting with research and ending in building the popsicle bridge

Bridge Proposal Letter – Template for proposal letter

Bridge Project Reflection – Post project reflection

SCIENCE!

I love the opportunity science class provides to get students involved in hands-on activities and engaged in inquiry-based projects. Here are some samples of the activities/projects I have done with my class.

Science Podcast Assignment – This was a fantastic project to finish up our ecosystems unit. Students listened to some examples of podcasts, then researched an animal, planned, and created their own podcast

3D model Cells and Systems – Students created their own 3D model of a system from the body using whatever material they chose.

Water Filtration Device Project – A project where students explored the growing shortage of drinkable water especially in third world countries and then designed and built their own working water filtration device.

Planet Earth Geological Inquiry – Students explore the world of geology by completing a researched based inquiry project about any geological feature/event.

Survival Handbook – A great activity where students planned for a “worst case scenario” by creating a survival handbook to help someone survive a natural disaster.

Heat and Temperature Thermos Project – Student’s are tasked with using their knowledge of conduction, convection, and radiation to design and build a device that will keep boiling water hot for as long as possible.

 

Real Life Math Assessment

When teaching math, I believe in connecting learned concepts to real-world problems to make math class authentic and meaningful. Students must first have a strong understanding of the basic concepts before applying their knowledge to more complex problems. I achieve this by first identifying gaps in knowledge and then teaching to fill those gaps with conceptual understanding and accurate terminology. We practice using a variety of styles and tools so that students get an opportunity to learn in a way that suits them. We’ve used worksheets, mental math apps, websites like math IXL, and math “centers”. While typically used at the elementary level, we found that by utilizing the “centers” style of learning, students could get targeted practice at specific skills so they could easily identify which areas they needed further support in. All of this practice had the purpose of developing a “toolbox” of skills to help students solve more complex problems later on. Once equipped with the knowledge and understanding of each math topic, students then applied their understanding to real-life challenge. Linked below is a variety of different assessments used for math.

Stock Trading Assignment – An assignment where students learned about the stock market, researched stocks and bought their own using fake money. The purpose was to practice multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction of fractions and decimals while participating in a real-world challenge.

Statistics and Data Analysis Project – A project where students obtain a set of data by either designing their own survey or by finding a data set online.

Fencing a Field Problem – A project where students use google earth to apply their understanding of linear equations to design and find the cost to fence a field.

Circles and Area Final Project – A project where students build a 3-D model of a house and then calculate the area of the shapes contained in that structure -parallelograms/ triangles/circles

Prisms Final Project – A project where students create a 3-D model of any structure using the TinkerCAD website and then calculate the combined area and volume of their shape.

Rate Ratio and Percent Project – A project where students choose to either “fill up their first apartment” or “plan a vacation” which includes calculating prices, taxes, percentages of cost breakdown etc.

Social Assessment

One of my biggest challenges when teaching social studies for the first time was figuring out how to best let every student voice their perspective and access the curriculum from where they were at in life. Every student’s unique background meant that each would interpret the complex issues discussed in a different way. I wanted the student to have the opportunity to explain what they viewed as important and meaningful and not be worried about getting “the right answer”. The learning I was looking for was each student’s explanation and justification of WHY they viewed a historical event as important.

In order to achieve this, we began by researching the events and people involved in colonizing North America and rated their significance and included a justification. We completed a “circle of viewpoints” activity where students identified all the people who were involved or affected by colonization and chose 2 perspectives to develop an understanding from. We also completed a “colour, symbol, image” activity where students represented their understanding of the topics in a variety of ways by thinking at a deeper level. Finally, I designed a “bulls-eye” assessment. Listed on the front page were the many events we had studied. Students organized the events by putting what they deemed to be the most important events in the middle of the bulls-eye and events they thought were less important on the outside. They then chose 3 events to justify their choices. (They could choose why the thought events were more important or explain why they thought events were less important).

The results were great. Immediately I saw a difference in opinion based on student’s backgrounds, beliefs, and even socio-economic standing. Best of all, each student was able to demonstrate their understanding by providing great perspective and strong justification because they were invested in their choices.

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Bulls-Eye Assessment (downloadable copy of assessment)

Microsoft Excel

Programs Used: Microsoft Excel

Scope of Knowledge: Use the full extent of  Excel by adding toolbars, formatting and aligning text and numbers, inserting formulas and functions and inserting charts. Also gain an understanding of absolute and relative cell referencing and how to sort data.

Work Sample: Click here to download sample

PowerPoint

Programs Used: PowerPoint

Scope of Knowledge: PowerPoint is a great mode of demonstrating information. Through changing design template, inserting images, audio, and video, format text and slide objects, add charts and graphs and create custom slide animation you can convey information in a concise, clear and unique way

Work Sample: Click here to download sample