Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Catapult Project

We started building catapults today. Unlike the Roller Coasters, I actually came into this one with a plan.

This was based on a Science Olympiad problem that required teams to launch an object of unknown mass to an unknown target. That is a LOT of unknowns, so I have given my kids a little more direction.

I want them to build big catapults, but I want them to understand how a catapult works and what kind of plans they are going to need.

So we started off with mini catapults.

That shoot M&Ms.*

You have not lived until your kids have permission to launch candy across your classroom.

Cody is having WAY too much fun with this. (Also, please ignore the incredibly messy lab room, we are still recovering from the roller coasters.)

Today was the idea day. They got two paint stirrers, 2-4 mini clothespins, one stick of hot glue (I have discovered that this is PLENTY) and a snack pack of M&Ms. Anything else they wanted to use had to be approved by me.

After about three minutes of stunned silence, they took off with this and had a wonderful time trying to figure out how to build their catapult.

I'll give them couple days to perfect their catapult before we have a test day where they have to launch their M&Ms. I'm thinking prizes will be awarded for distance and accuracy.

*Next year, we will shoot marshmallows. M&Ms get eaten pretty quickly and shatter when they hit my floor. I had a lot of explaining to do when the custodian came in this afternoon.


clobbered said...

Please don't award "prizes for distance and accuracy". The point is not to build a better catapult - the point is to understand the physics. You have 100% of the kids really involved in this, and if you give prizes the 90% of them that don't get one will think they have failed. But if they have learned, they have NOT failed.

Every learning experience does not have to be a competition.

Tracie Schroeder said...

clobbered - I know what you mean. The "competition" part of it turned into more discussion than I could have thought. One group would shoot their catapult and the next group would discuss what they needed to do to top it. It worked out really well with the kids I had, but I can see how some groups would get discouraged. I would definitely decide from year to year whether or not to set it up that way. As it turned out, their "prize" was the leftover M&Ms :)

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