Before moving into building the structure for our Angry Bird diorama, I wanted to give my students some hands-on practice designing and creating structures. My goal is to use these activities to discover the most stable shape and its usefulness in creating structures.
Our first activity was Spaghetti and Marshmallow Towers. You can find this activity online in all kinds of variations. To begin, I gave each table 40 pieces of uncooked spaghetti and 15 marshmallows. I told the students that their goal was to build the tallest freestanding structure in their class, using only the spaghetti and marshmallows. Students were told that they could break the spaghetti into smaller pieces as needed. Students had a 20 minute time limit to construct. Once the 20 minutes were up, I measured each tower's height (those that remained standing) and we noted how the base of the tower was constructed.
The winning teams and towers:
Dittrich - 21" tall
Whitehead - 18" tall
Johnson 28" - THE WINNER
Our second activity was called Brads and Tag. I found this activity years ago at a High/Scope workshop. I do not have access to the book any longer, but I still use the idea! Basically, each pair of students is given:
tagboardstrips, 2 cm x 10 cm, hole punched in the ends
tagboardstrips, 2 cm x 20 cm, hole punched in the ends
- 15 brads
Before beginning, I asked the students to predict the shape that they believe is most stable (will not change form) out of a triangle, square, pentagon, and hexagon. Then, using the brads and the tag, each group built a triangle, square, pentagon, and hexagon. I asked them to hold up the triangle and determine whether or not it held its shape. We then repeated this with all of the shapes. The only shape that was stable (did not change form) was the triangle.
This information/illustration is from: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/buildingbig/educator/act_straw_ei.html
Now I wanted the kids to work with their partner to come up with a plan that would make the remaining shapes stable. Using their brads and tag, they put their plans into action. We used their completed shapes to take notes in their math journal and illustrate each of the braced shapes on paper.
Our third activity was intended to prove just how strong triangles can be. Using an idea from Maths in the City, I laid a sheet of paper across a span and asked the kids what would happen if I put a DVD box on the paper (it did not hold). Then I showed a pre-folded sheet of paper (like a fan) to my kids and pointed out the triangles within the "fan". I asked them to predict what would happen if I placed it across the span and laid a DVD box on it. IT HELD...
more than 1 DVD box!
Finally, I wanted them to debrief about the activities today, so they got out their Chromebooks, went to their math Google Classroom and opened the form Stable Structures:
I was looking for new understanding of a stable shape. The triangle is the most stable shape and is used in all types of buildings, playground equipment, and bridges as shown on the website: Maths in the City. Look around you, you will be surprised by the number of triangles found in everyday objects around you!
On a techie note, I used the Google Form Add-On called DocAppender to organize the information submitted by my students. Basically, by choosing their homeroom teacher on the form, DocAppender sends the responses from students in that homeroom to a Google Doc. When I open the Google Doc this evening, all of the responses will be in an easy to read table format, making my assessment of their responses easy!