Oh, how proud and excited I was to have a curriculum all laid out for the next several weeks! I started working through the next lesson several days ahead of time, happy to be so organized.
But then, whoops, I got sick. To the point that I did NOTHING for several days. And decided it was time to haul out Plan B.
When I started teaching this co-op science class I decided I needed to have a Plan B in case I couldn't be there, or I absolutely couldn't get stuff together to teach on some particular week. Hey, weird stuff happens, and when you're in charge of a bunch of kids for an hour, it's nice to have a Plan B.
My back-up plan was Zoom Puff Mobiles. Over Christmas I'd purchased one of those books of Lifesavers that has several rolls of the candy inside -- it had about 84 Lifesavers in total. Opening up one of the rolls, I realized that our usual drinking straws were actually too big to fit through the hole, so I stopped by a dollar store and got some cheapy narrow straws. Then it was a matter of printing out several copies of the pdf file (which is in the "Printable" section of the website), adding paperclips, scissors, tape and scrap paper to my supplies, and voila, instant busywork!
When we all arrived at class we talked a little about chemistry. We discussed what we had done the week before (dissolving M&Ms) and I asked if anyone had tried any other experiments, like trying to dissolve the coating in sugar water. No one had. Then we discussed the Periodic Table of the Elements just a bit -- I wanted to get a feel for whether any of them had a clue what it was. I borrowed Ellen McHenry's analogy of the elements being like cooking ingredients in a kitchen. Most of the kids seemed to be fairly clueless about the Periodic Table.
Then I said, "Okay, that's it for chemistry. Let's do an engineering project!", and enlisted people to start handing out supplies. A couple of kids asked if they could work as a team, which was fine.
We had a quick math lesson about how many Lifesavers would be needed for everyone in the class to get 4 vs. how many were in the packages I had, bearing in mind that some of the Lifesavers would be broken (and, indeed, the cherry ones seemed to be pretty fragile).
Also, BONUS, I brought extra supplies in case I had extra kids in the class, since this seems to be happening consistently in everything I do lately. And, sure enough, there was an extra kid. But I totally expected to have an extra child that no one had bothered to tell me about ahead of time! Yay me! Take that, universe! I'm on to your tricks!
The kids who have been in the class the entire time had a blast. They worked fairly quietly (thankfully, since I sort of felt like laying down on the floor and taking a nap), and showed great co-operation in sharing things like tape dispensers. Some of the new kids were a little timid about the entire thing -- I kept repeating that real engineers try an idea, see if it works, then sometimes need to try something new. It's really okay to just dive in and try things. And it's okay to be shy. Also, please take your creation with you, as I actually think Lifesavers are sort of repulsive, particularly after they've been rolled over a table several times.
I love seeing what they come up with on things like this. We end up with great discussions on why some ideas work and some don't. Our best sail design was fairly low-to-the-Puff Mobile, and was concave.
Of course, now I need to restock my Plan B supplies, probably with another Zoom challenge. Hmmm....