“A Wilderness of Sweets”

Bridges, Lilaputians and Hearts.

STRUCTURES: OUR BRIDGE BUILDING PROCESS

This blog is dedicated to the final weeks of our structure unit: building the suspension bridge.

Our final project was to build a mini suspension bridge.

Throughout this unit the grade 1/2’s and H have looked at: problem solving, reasoning, connecting, communicating and reflecting. They were exposed to visual, verbal and written notation. They were also creating basic representations of simple mathematical ideas. For example they were exploring measurement with feet and hands. Through trial and error they realized they had to use more standard forms of measurement (cm) for precision and accuracy (stability and strength of the bridge). They were also calculating addition, subtraction, division and multplication equations through abstract reasoning.

We have been working on teamwork and collaboration throughout our classes. This particular project lent itself to working together. The process targeted collaboration and reflection.

The Lilaputian:

We received a letter in our yard! It was from a Lilaputian (a tiny elf-like fairy) name Piper. The letter was to spark new motivation to construct our final task, a mini model bridge. Piper explained his situation and how he needed to get from one log to another, he asked the grade 1/2’s and H to assemble a bridge for him.

This is our P.B.L wall. It shows the several letters from Piper along with some other activities that we did.

The students quickly fashioned a beam bridge made from logs and branches in the yard. Later the next day we received another letter- it gave a more detailed description of the kind of bridge Piper wanted. He attached a small drawing for reference ;)

The letters tapped into their imagination. Pretend play requires children to transform objects and actions symbolically. It involves interactive social dialogue and negotiation. Pretense engages many areas of the brain because it uses emotion, cognition, language and sensorimotor actions which creates deeper synaptic connections (Bergen & Coscia, 2001). I wanted our class to be creative through sociodramatic play. The introduction to Piper ignited new excitement and energy into our class. They wrote him countless letters and even changed their outdoor play. They started to become more aware of their surroundings and interacted in a more gentle way.

Our lilaputian kept prompting and motivating the class to construct a mini suspension bridge. The kids were actively participating in planning, researching, decisions, designing and finally building. Thus the mini model fabrication began:

They started by making ‘rafts’ out of popsicle sticks and white glue. One of our students came up with the idea to lay a row of sticks out vertically and then connect the top and bottom with a stick, horizontally. This was a great idea that worked brilliantly. They each made several ‘rafts’ that were eventually connected, after many failed attempts. By our 3rd or 4th try we had figured out an easy and sustainable way to keep all the ‘rafts’ together. The process started as an independent challenge that naturally rolled into a collaborate experience. Having already completed a part of the design on their own they demonstrated more eager, intense responsibility towards finishing it as a whole.

They added extra layers of vertical sticks to reinforce their “bridge floor.” The entire bridge progression allowed for changes, tweaks, additions and alterations…which we used to the fullest.

The last step to our bridge floor was to make it more aesthetically appealing for Piper. They each chose colours to brighten the wood.

Sidenote: During the process of building the rafts, attaching them and painting the finished panel the kids used a lot of math. For example, one grade 1 student wanted to disperse popsicle sticks as her job. I wanted her to be more involved in the engineering so I gave her several word problems. One example was:

If there are 12 rafts of popsicle sticks, and there are a total of 84 sticks in all…how many popsicle sticks are in 1 raft?

We worked the problem several ways. She finally decided we had to calculate how many times 12 went into 84, that would give us the number of sticks in 1 raft. 84/12=7! She checked her answer by counting.


OUR SUSPENSION BRIDGE: ADDING THE CABLES

The children learned that suspension bridges use cables to help stabilize and steady the bridge. We used twine in place of metal cable stays for cost sake!
The towers were built using popsicle sticks as well. They were then wrapped in thick yarn to help strengthen them. A few of the grade 1/2’s decided that it would not only look great but would be fully functional!

We spent LOTS of time implementing the cables (twine). There were a few steps: measure the twine, cut the pieces, tie half-hitch knots from the main cable stay to the bridge panels(repeat the last step several times). It was a tedious development that took a lot of patience. They persevered and finished beautifully!

In the end they produced a strong, functional and stunning suspension bridge.

They were all beaming with pride and could not wait to show the others. They left it out for Piper to enjoy!

For me, this project was hugely successful. I was able to set developmental and social/emotional expectations for each student, as well as for our class as a whole. We were able to meet all of them and more. The best part was unveiling it OUTSIDE in our yard. Having a place to display their final outcome in the outdoors made it real for them. Great job Grade 1/2’s and H!


A BIT OF ART: VALENTINES HEARTS

The grade 1/2’s and H made paper mache mini heart mobiles. They used their little hands to make beautiful pieces of art. It was a wonderful process to watch! They turned out great.

“Two hearts are better than one” -The Boss

Thanks for a great few weeks!

Miss K

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