We’ve been studying dinosaurs, and we can’t get by without designing a container to protect the dino eggs when falling off those cliffs or down the mountainside. To entice my students for the week, I placed a grapevine wreath, dino-eggs, and a T-Rex dinosaur inside the classroom with a Stegosaurus dinosaur that greeted each student when entering our classroom. The students knew something was going to happen, but they weren’t quite sure. The morning chatter was great to listen to as they tried to figure out what they were going to learn.
Soon, it was time for project learning. Before students began, I set the stage introducing the STEM project and letting the engineers know their task: to design a container to protect the dino-egg from cracking when falling from a height of 10 feet. You should have seen their faces – yes, excited! Additionally, students were given an allotment of $30.00 to spend on supplies. I then shared the supply list and cost.
Material options: bubble wrap, dixie cup, 1 meter of string, 5 popsicle sticks, 10 straws, 3 cotton balls, 1 sheet (9 x 12) of sturdy box cardboard, grocery size plastic bag, 1 meter of masking tape, and one bunch of pillow stuffing. Scissors were FREE!
In order to make the best use of their monies, students had to work with a partner and carefully plan which materials they would use. Before students could go shopping, their design plan had to be shared with me, detailing the costs, and reasons each material piece would be helpful. Isn’t this how it works in the real world? Alright, it was time to get started!
I’m bummed I didn’t get any pictures to share the design stage. I was manning the store and ensuring the engineers had plenty of thought go into their container. Meanwhile, during the design stage, several student teams visited the store to see the materials and inquire as to how much they would get for their money. It was quite interesting to hear their thinking and ongoing discussion.
Once the design was approved, student teams could purchase and begin creating their dino-egg drop container. The students spent two days working on this part of the project. The teams were allowed to test their container just outside of the classroom in a stairwell. Once tested (one time), students could make adjustments. As students completed their project, the long awaited “Dino Egg Drop” day was just around the corner.
Dino eggs were collected, student teams took their contraption to the launch pad, and eggs were carefully placed inside the container. One by one, everyone watched in anticipation! Adding to the excitement, a countdown was given for all teams! Yes, just like the real deal!
My husband helped with the launch pad, so I could keep the kids focused and ready for their turn. From a 10 foot height, each container was dropped. As the containers were being tested, everyone watched to see what would happen. The students nervously unwrapped their dino-egg and cheered or groaned. Of the 14 groups, 8 of them tested a successful container.
Afterwards, we debriefed on what happened, adjustments/revisions that could be made, why these revisions could work better, and what would be done differently. We looked for common trends for the successful containers compared to the containers that failed. It was important for the students to know that real engineers go through the same process: planning, designing, constructing, testing, debriefing, and revising.
In the end, All students walked away with a better understanding of the engineering process and how the next project can be even better. They also figured out that the dino-eggs were really store bought, but it was fun to think the eggs were real dino-eggs! My students had a fabulous time with this problem solving lesson, critically thinking outside of the box to design a successful container.