Gause students learn about problem-solving
Gause Elementary School fifth-grade students recently learned about engineering design processes in an attempt overcome a unique challenge.
Students in Eric Engebretson’s class were given a hula-hoop, a flat bike tire, a plastic container half filled with beans, an empty plastic container and several rope strings, and challenged to use the materials to pour the beans from one container to the other, but not have any body part leaning inside of the hula-hoop area and not drop a single bean.
Armed with iPads to draw and share their design ideas and record their attempts, the teams of three and four students tested their theories of how to accomplish the task and solve the problem within the allotted 45 minutes.
Once a team had an idea that worked, its members were invited to the middle of the room to prove their idea. The beans were substituted with pretend “toxic popcorn,” and if the students leaned over the hula-hoop or dumped the corn, “Washougal” would be destroyed.
“I wanted students to understand that there is a process to solving a range of problems and that the process is real and applicable in the real world,” Engebretson said.
Today’s students need to creatively solve problems, deal with vast amounts of information, communicate clearly, learn ever-changing technologies and work in teams, Engebretson said.
“A part of this project is having the kids work cooperatively in groups,” he added. “They need the skills, both social and technical, when they apply for and perform the duties of a job, regardless of the career they choose. I want to impress on students that there are a lot of opportunities to work in the science industry and they will use these skills.”
Although no team conquered the primary task, the lesson was successful, according to Engebretson. Students remained focused on trying different solutions, had fun in their groups and cheered each other on.
“The kids were also able to reflect on their project and see where they could have made improvements in their designs and how they could change them to work as they intended them,” Engebretson said. “It’s all a part of the process.”