Rolling into Summer or Elves at Work

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SWBAT identify criteria that defines a 'good' toy car and test toy cars based on that critiera.

Big Idea

Engineers explore what works well on toy cars and dream of ways to improve the design.

NGSS Connections and Class Preparation

30 minutes

Students explore which parts of a toy car help it roll straight and far. In a future lesson students will apply this experience when they design and build their own 'toy car'.

In the next lesson students learn about the parts of the vehicle that allow it to roll. Next year I will start with the 2nd lesson before doing this one so students have a schema for how a vehicle rolls. I think this would help students develop their hypotheses and observations in this lesson.

 NGSS Standards

ETS1.A:  Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

Students gather information to help them understand what 'toy car' elements help the vehicle roll straight and roll far.

Science Practices

- Analyzing and Interpreting Data (SP 4)

Students review their observations today, to help them learn what helps the vehicle roll straight and far.

 Cross-cutting Concepts - Appendix G

- Structure and Function (XC 6)

Students examine the structures of a variety of toy cars to understand the structures that may or may not assist with the vehicle rolling straight and far.

 Lesson Preparation

- Collect an assortment of toy cars.

- Use masking tape to number the cars.

- Copy the 'Research and Development' form; 3 - 4 forms / team. You may want to have more forms available if students complete the required number of tests.

- Copy or project the R and D memo.

- Identify material to use for the ramps or make ramps; one ramp /team

I made ramps out of cardboard.

- Check that each team will have a ramp.

- Set out measuring devices; measuring tape, meter stick, ruler


Question for the Day

5 minutes

Science starts with a question posted on the board, which sets the stage for the lesson. I have established this routine with the kiddos to keep transition time short and effective and redirect student's attention back to content while allowing time for focused peer interaction.

Question for the Day: What makes a 'superior' gravity powered toy car?

I invite students to read the question aloud, then direct them to turn and share their ideas with their shoulder partner.

When students turn to face me, indicating they completed their discussion, I call volunteers to share their answers.

The students' answers will start the criteria that they will use as they test toy cars today.

I sort student answers by appearance or functionality. Afterwards I ask them how I sorted their answers. 

"Which would be more important to design first, how it looks or how well the vehicle works?"

"Yes, how it works! Starting today you are part of a research and development team for a toy company. You will test different toy vehicles and rate them for how well they work. Your answers that you shared for our question, can help guide your testing."

There were only a few responses that focused on design vs function. Instead of making the T chart, we discussed that the function should be the first properties to research. Students also said design helps it work if it helps how the air flows around the vehicle.

I did this lesson with 2 classes. It is interesting how the class dynamics influences the discussion. (see students responses).


Criteria and Constraints for Toy Car Research

10 minutes

"The toy company has some requirements for the type of vehicles that they want you to research. Here let me read the memo that the president of the Toy Company has sent to you, the research and development team."

I project the 'R and D memo' and read it to the students.

"According to the memo there are some constraints or limits to the type of vehicles that the 'toy company' wants you to research." With the students' participation, I highlight the constraints on the memo and list them on tag board.

These will be referenced in a subsequent lesson when students build their own vehicle.

1. The vehicle must have at least 3 wheels, but no more than 6.

2. It can roll when released down a ramp.

"If the vehicle meets these 2 requirements, then this is a toy vehicle to research."

"The presidents also mentioned some criteria that the vehicle should be able to do, what are these? Right the vehicle should roll straight and roll a far distance." I highlight these in the memo and write them on the tag board."

"Now that you know the constraints and have the criteria for the vehicles you will be researching today, I will explain how you will set up for vehicle research."

Students return to their desks.

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

30 minutes

Please read my reflection. I explain why I did not define parameters of the criteria with the students before they start their research.

"If you are going to design a toy vehicle that can roll straight and far, then the research and development teams need to discover which cars do that well and why. So that those elements can be used when you design your car."

"The toy company said that the vehicle needs to be able to roll down a ramp. What is a ramp? Think about our erosion tables. Right, it is like the slope of a hill. One side is higher than the other side. Teams will use these ramps," I point to the ramps on the table.

"The toy company wants to know how well the vehicle rolls down the ramp, should the research and development teams push the vehicle?"

Students provide their reasons on whether or not the vehicle should be pushed. I scaffold the discussion to include students' previous learning on what makes a fair test, to help them conclude that students might push with different forces which could affect the function of the vehicle.

"When you share your results it will be important that everyone knows which vehicle you researched. So I have placed numbers on each vehicle. Remember to write the number of the vehicle you are researching on your 'Research and Development' form.

I project the R&D form that students will fill out.

"On your form your R&D team will need to report on how well the vehicle rolled straight, how far the vehicle rolled and your hypothesis and what you think helped it to roll straight or not and why or why not it did not roll far."

Direct students to circle the words 'roll' or 'not roll' or 'roll far' when writing their observations so the reader knows which situation they are discussing. On the next revision, I will have a box for students to check.

I stress that all the ramps need to be on the floor and to be careful walking around so that nothing gets stepped on.

I move around the room to observe how students define what is a successful straight path for the vehicle, how they choose to measure the vehicle length, and if testing the vehicle once is enough. I also note students' reasons for why the vehicle rolled far or went straight.

Debrief: Challenges and Problem Solving

15 minutes

I signal for students' attention and direct them to place ramps and cars on the desk and then meet me on the rug.

"It looks like most of you tested at least 3 cars. Was there anything challenging about testing the cars?"

If students are reluctant to share, I state what I noticed as challenging, including teams discussing how to determine if a car went straight or the discussions I had with teams about whether or not one test for each car was enough. I also ask about the research form and if the teams would have set it up differently. 

Student responses are discussed, then I follow the discussion with, "Does anyone have an idea how to solve this challenge?"

If I observed someone who grappled with this challenge, I call on this students to share how they handled this challenge.

Finally, with the students' help we write a class conclusion for what makes a vehicle roll straight and roll far. I direct students to turn in their lab forms and place cars and ramps on the table.

I review the forms for completeness and to see how well students used examples from their car to help explain how the vehicle did or did not meet the criteria.