Sunday, 9 December 2012

Week 9: The Marshmallow Challenge!

This week was our last week of gifted class until the new year.  We finished it off with a bang!

The Marshmallow Challenge

Classes were divided into groups of 3 - 4 and tasked with building the tallest tower they could with the following supplies:

The rules were simple:

  • Build the Tallest Freestanding Structure
  • The Entire Marshmallow Must be on Top
  • Use as Much or as Little of the Kit (which contained the supplies listed above).
  • You May Break Up the Spaghetti, String or Tape
  • The Challenge Lasts 18 Minutes

Before starting the challenge we discussed what were good strategies to use when working in groups. Then the students went at it! 

The older students (grades 4s and 5s) were able to work well in their groups while some of the younger students did require more coaching / intervention. In most cases the students were able to resolve any conflicts and go on to work well as a group. I was proud of their ability to come up with solutions that worked for everyone in the group!

When the 18 minutes were up, some groups did not have a completed tower, others had a tower that looked great, but could not support the marshmallow (which is surprisingly heavy), while the remaining structures proudly held their marshmallows on top. The two tallest towers were both 61 cm tall -- one built in the Tuesday grade 5 class and the other in the Thursday grade 4 class.

Here are some of the towers:

After the activity we went over some of these slides and related the challenge to the process that inventors and others go through when solving problems. 

Thank you to one of our parents, James' mother Christina, for mentioning this activity to me. It is described in this TED Talk.

For Fun

Continuing on our Rube Goldberg theme, some of the classes watched this video:

Wrap Up

This was the last week of gifted classes for 2012. Reports for the fall term of gifted classes will be going home before schools break for the holidays. Gifted classes resume again the first week that school is back in session (January 7th - 11th). Have a safe and enjoyable holiday!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Week 8: Inventor Skits

Inventor Skits

This week in gifted all of the classes created skits about specific inventors.  Students were randomly put into groups of 3 or 4 and then they were given a fact sheet about a specific inventor and their invention(s).  The group members had to learn the information and then create a skit to convey that information to the rest of the class.  Prior to working in their skits we discussed successful strategies for working in groups.  Some of the ideas that students suggested were:
  • making an effort to try and include everyone's ideas
  • no put downs
  • being aware of not dominating the group
  • seeking the input of quieter members of the group
It can be very challenging working in a group, especially when working against the clock!  All of the groups did a great job.  In some cases there were disagreements, but with some gentle prodding group members were able to come up with solutions that met everyone's needs.

The skits were, creative, insightful, and fun to watch!  We had a wonderful impression of bacteria growing out of control from the Tuesday morning group's Alexander Flemming penicillin sketch.   Sean from the Thursday afternoon class portrayed a very realistic and mischievous little turtle as his group tackled the challenging task of explaining Tim Berners-Lee's invention of the World Wide Web.  The Wright brothers skit from the Thursday morning class was full of dramatic acting, plays on words (ask them about their airplane instruments) and audience participation!  There were also entertaining skits on Mary Anderson (windshield wipers), Johannes Gutenberg (moveable type printing), Alexander Graham Bell (telephone), and Frank Epperson (popsicle).

After each group performed their skit there was a chance for questions about the inventor and the invention.  Then the audience commented on what they thought the group did well.  We're trying to work towards specific feedback, although I'm sure that no one minds being told that their group "was awesome!" or that "I liked everything!"

For most of the classes the groups were then asked to create a quick skit illustrating what life would be like today without their invention.

Inventors' Workshop

The Inventors' Workshop is something that all of the classes will be helping to create in the new year.  Some of the students from the Tuesday morning class got started on creating a large paper mache light bulb for the Inventors' Workshop.  Unfortunately their teacher, ahem, caused the balloon to pop.  Back to square one...

One of the ideas for the Inventors' Workshop was to build a model of a giant TV in which we would highlight different inventors/inventions.  Marcus from the Tuesday afternoon class had the great idea of  also using the TV as a puppet theatre; students could create puppets and put on plays depicting famous inventors and their inventions.  Other ideas have included creating a portal to the workshop and a remote for the TV.

Inventor Projects (Morning Classes)

The Tuesday morning and Thursday morning classes are continuing to work on their inventor projects.  Last week I highlighted what the Tuesday class was doing, now for Thursday's class:
  • dioramas--Danica and Ronesca have made great strides on their diorama as has Gina on hers about the inventor Gary Fong
  • comics--a number of students have decided to give Bitstrips for Schools a try to relate what they have learned about their inventors.  Bitstrips is an online comic strip creator.  Some of the students trying it out are: Brandon, Zach M, Zack K, Jordan, Tristan, Koen, Paul, Tyler
  • interview with an inventor --  Carson and Braiden have got a great start on their script as have Chloe and Nicola, who would also like to include other elements in their project such as a poster
  • inventor cards--Josh is making great headway on his inventor cards and learning a lot in the process!
Not every student in the class is listed above as a number were away in the last class, and so may not have totally settled on a format yet.

Wrapping Up

This coming week (December 3rd - 7th) is the last week of gifted program classes until January.