STEAM: Designing Sledding Ramps

As a way to try out a STEAM project before diving into making windmills when I get back from Spain; my buddy 1st grade teacher and I decided to take on a smaller STEAM project with our classes, designing ramps for model sleds (bottle caps). Teaming up together to collaborate on this project could not have been better!

The first grade teacher, Jess, and I worked together to find a easy first STEAM lesson we could do with our two classes. Jess found the perfect lesson that only required a few materials, and included a great graphic organizer for collecting data and reflecting on the experience.

Before meeting as a group we provided students with some background knowledge on the topic. Our class watched the simple machines BrainPop Jr video, watched a video on the science behind sledding, blogged about possible sled designs, and then did some brainstorming. It was amazing to hear students come up with ideas and use words like, friction, ramp, slope, steep, angle, and other science and math words to describe their possible designs. As we prepared for our STEAM lab the third graders also had a chance to review measurement, since the purpose of the challenge was to see who could get their sled to travel the furthest from the bottom of the ramp. It provided students with practical application of measuring using rulers.
 The day of the STEAM lab couldn’t have gone any better. We met in the cafeteria and started by first defining student roles for both 1st and 3rd graders, to make sure that all students would be involved. Then we divided them into teams, explained the materials available to them, handed out the recording sheets and they were off and running! Each team had the chance to design, try out and record results for 3 different sled runs. In between each test they would go back to the “design center” (3 cafeteria tables) to discuss what worked and didn’t work, decide what changes to make and then make changes. The results were fantastic team work, great ideas and lots of good collaboration.

At the end of the time students reflected as a group about what they would do if they could use other materials and make changes. That’s when we revealed to students that we would get together the following week to do the STEAM activity again. The change for next week, they could bring in materials from home to try and make their sleds travel further. The students were thrilled.

What I love best about the STEAM activity was the creativity and real world application of skills we have learned in math and science. This STEAM activity also gave many students who sometime struggle a chance to shine. For my hands on learning, problem solving students, this was their moment to lead their team. Students were engaged and excited to work together to see which group’s sled would go the furthest. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next week with new materials!

Have you run STEAM labs with your students? What have been some of your favorite labs?



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