Fearsome Flash Floods - Design Solution - Explain (Session 2)

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Objective

SWBAT clearly present their idea for designing a solution to a local weather hazard (flash floods). Audience members will ask thoughtful questions about gaps in the plan to assist the presenter in reflecting on details.

Big Idea

Communicating ideas and critiquing the reasoning of others are important science and math practices that transfer across all subject areas.

Review the Role of the Engineering Team

5 minutes

In order to ensure that the students continue to be active and engaged listeners, I review expectations and provide them with this Engineering Team Project Evaluation  page.  I remind them that we all work for the same company, and we are all very concerned about the issue of cars being trapped on the highway during an unpredictable flash flood.  Their job is to listen to their fellow engineers and provide constructive feedback.  Positive feedback is kind and all feedback should be given in considerate language, but their job as engineers isn't to make sure they don't hurt someone's feelings.  Their job is to help each other get even better at what they do, and they owe it to each other to point out possible design flaws.  I give them this example.  What if a person designing a skyscraper didn't put in enough supports?  Would the other engineers not tell her just because they didn't want to hurt her feelings?

Presentations

45 minutes

Questions that ask for more information, clarification, are an essential part of scientific habits of mind.  Allowing for two days of presentations and discussions allows me to level up the cognitive demands on both the part of the student evaluators (audience) and the engineer (student giving the presentation).  I intentionally placed more outgoing students on the second day because this early on in the year, I am deliberate and patient about building up the tolerance the shyer students have to answering tough, critical thinking questions while they are "on stage."  They can do it, and they will do it, but there's no sense in throwing them off the dock into deep water.  That can have long-term negative consequences.  So I selected this child for the second day because he doesn't have a shy bone in his body and while he became a little frustrated at first that people were questioning his masterful plan, his ability to explain his thinking was a perfect counterpart to the questions I guided students to ask about how specific aspects of his design solution would be built, function, adapt, and so on.

This is an example of how this engineer showed how his design plan addressed a specific question a student had early on in his presentation.

Here us an example of a student's written report ("Flash Flood Helper")

Wrap-up

5 minutes

At the conclusion of this second day of presentations, I ask students to reflect (silently) on what they learned about how to ask questions.  Secondly, I asked them to think about what they learned about giving presentations.  Finally, I asked them to let me know, either verbally now or later in private if there was anything about the way we engaged in this activity that I needed to adjust to make it a better fit for them.