Reflection: Lesson Planning Day 2 of 4--Engineering a Calorimeter: Designing and Testing a First Prototype - Section 2: Pre-Activity Discussion


I developed this sequence of lessons a few years ago after the first draft of NGSS had been released.  I was looking for a way to incorporate more engineering tasks into my chemistry classes and already had a specific heat capacity investigation for which my students built styrofoam cup calorimeters.  At that time, the calorimeter build was nothing more than following prescribed steps, resulting in the same calorimeters across every group.  In order to address a need for testing different materials, I decided to allow students to choose from styrofoam and paper cups.  Initially, however, I did not present the build as a challenge from Cal R. Imeter of CHEEP Lab Supplies.

During a follow-up consultation from the Buck Institute (after our school had undergone professional development through that group in project based learning), my consultant suggested that I turn this challenge into one posed by an outside source.  She helped me develop the letter from Cal R. Imeter and I have used it ever since.  Every year, some students are convinced that it is real and take the challenge very seriously.  I neither confirm nor deny their suspicions.

  Project Based Learning
  Lesson Planning: Project Based Learning
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Day 2 of 4--Engineering a Calorimeter: Designing and Testing a First Prototype

Unit 4: Thermodynamics
Lesson 8 of 11

Objective: SWBAT work within a small group to refine the design of a heat container that meets certain constraints as posed in a fictional business solicitation, and they will build and test a first prototype.

Big Idea: We can build a prototype that meets certain constraints and performs within specific parameters so that tests for success can be completed using that prototype.

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