The problem in front of them was simple.
The solution, however, took some critical thinking.
As the temperature outside continues to rise with the emergence of spring, the students in Sharon Woodley’s kindergarten class at Plainview Primary Elementary were faced with a question. The task at hand was written on the white board in green marker.
“I can build a model of a structure that will help us cool off at recess,” the mission statement on the board read.
The class took notice of the increasing temperatures in recent recess sessions and Woodley decided the problem needed to be considered by the class. Woodley decided to pose a design challenge to the students to build a structure that would keep the class cool during recess. The class has been studying the effects of the sun on the Earth’s surface, which provided some context for the students as they prepared their approach.
“They built a model and we talked about how engineers will start with a model first before they build a real structure,” Woodley said. “I have given them the ability to create what they wanted to create.”
The class was split into groups and were given creative license to use whatever materials, structure and approach in their designs, as long as the structure will keep an ice cube from melting. The class will test the structures by placing an ice cube inside the structure and placing one outside the structure. The class will record the results of the time the two ice cubes melt.
Woodley’s classroom became a workshop of ideas on Tuesday, with different structures and designs being erected throughout the room.
Students Ian Pope and Easton Blakley decided to take the approach of shielding the ice cube from the sun. After several designs, drawn on large yellow poster board, the duo started putting their structure together.
“I brought this stuff from home,” Pope said holding a toy wooden log. “I thought we could use a brick but then we thought about taping it closed so we used a shoe box like this.
“It’ll keep the ice cube really cold.”
One large structure was being constructed in the middle of the room with the promise of being a successful design. The large structure was made up of different types of paper, wood and poster board and seemed ready to keep the recess hour at a breezy temperature.
When the students went to move the structure, however, disaster struck.
“They were trying to use lots of different materials,” Woodley said. “They found out as they tried to move it that it wasn’t mobile.”
The promising structure was left in ruins, scattering scotch tape and paper across the room. With the design in shambles, Woodley encouraged the students to continue their endeavor toward a cooler playtime.
“We talked about whenever you’re trying to design something sometimes you have to go back to the drawing board and start over to make a new plan,” Woodley said.
Like their adult counterparts, the student engineers were left experimenting through trial and error to determine the best direction toward a solution. Woodley said learning through hands-on experience is beneficial for the students, particularly at their age.
“Just to give them that opportunity to learn on their own, ask the questions they need to ask and to begin to think on their own is great,” Woodley said. “It makes them have to use their critical thinking skills.”
Woodley said the groups will test their designs in the field sometime this week, provided that the weather cooperates. The confident teacher said she believes the students will find great success with their designs.
“There are two or three that I think yes will be very successful,” she laughed.