Reflection: High Quality Task Designing a Solar Car Part 4 - Section 2: Building the Model


As I said in Part 1 of this lesson, this is the first time I have designed solar cars. The group really wanted to design solar cars. I explained to them that I had a solar car model from Pitsco that has been in the closet for several years. "I'm not sure it will work. Do you want to give it a try?" They were game and so I started down a very unfamilar path.

As a teacher I am usually in control of lots of things; the unit plan, the lesson plan, the activities, the discipline. I was worried because I did not have control over this model because I didn't know if I could plan to make it successful. My strategy was to talk to the students about it. I didn't know what to expect so I too was part of the learning process. I was a coach. In this role I tried to just ask questions. 

I pulled out the box filled with models one sunny spring day. I showed students how the models worked. I said, "Where should we start?" They suggested a procedure:

  • Find a sunny spot. Place the panel in the sun and wait a few minutes. Hold the car in the air until the wheels start to move. Once the wheels move, place the car on the sidewalk to get it to move. 

It was a sunny day and the panels worked to move the wheels. Unfortunately the sidewalk prevented the wheels from propelling the cab. I asked, "What should we do?" There was a series of suggestions including one to get a gym mat and test it on the mat. I liked the idea but I couldn't leave the room to get one. I decided to get a mat and test it later. 

I then said, "What other problems are we going to have?" The students understood that weight would be an issue. I asked the students to think about materials we could use. Someone said paper and tissue paper. One boy suggested tissue paper on a balloon like in art class. (I was thrilled with the idea.) One student said, "How will we put the cab on the chassis of model?"  Tooth picks and popsicle sticks were suggested. I ask, "How will we know if it will fit?" They all said we have to measure the dimensions of the cab. 

I felt that we had a plan. Whether it worked or not was part of the excitement. We would all be disappointed if it didn't work but learning about how it could work was the point. In addition, all of our problems were authentic issues. Using my backward planning, my planned assessment was to have the students explain their problems in answering the question, "Can solar cars be the transportation of the future?" My plan was to use the failure or success of the model to help students answer the question. 


  Will It Work?
  High Quality Task: Will It Work?
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Designing a Solar Car Part 4

Unit 9: Designing for the Future: Designing a Solar Car
Lesson 4 of 7

Objective: SWBAT test original designs for a solar car in an attempt to answer the question, "Can solar cars be the transportation of the future?"

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