Mini-Squares of Life
In this lesson students will solve the problem: How can we easily mark a small square to investigate in the same way that we studied a square meter? Students will use the Engineering Design Process to create a device, a "mini-square marker," that they can use to mark off a small area of study outdoors.
Note : Go to The Museum of Science, Boston for a one page teacher tutorial on using the Engineering Design Process with children.
Students will be able to:
- Brainstorm several ideas for making it easy to mark a square on the ground.
- Predict which materials will make the best device.
- Use prior and new knowledge to design the device.
- Compare the suitability of different designs.
- Create a tool/device that they will use to complete a mini square investigation.
- Pencils or markers
- Rubber bands
- Cardboard/oaktag /manila folders
- Popsicle sticks
- Index cards
- Hand lenses (for square study)
Time: One hour for introduction, designing and constructing. Plan time within a few days to go outside for the mini-square investigation.
- Remind the students that the squares they studied for The Square of Life project were one meter on each side. Tell them that they will now have a chance to study their own smaller squares in different areas, and they will be making a tool that will help them define or show a square,
- Introduce the problem: What tool can we make that will easily define/show a square so that we won't have to carry a ruler and measure a square on the ground every time we move to a different location in the school yard?
- Ask: What would a device such as we need look like? The student responses might include, a picture frame or a window.
- Ask: What would be a good size for your mini-squares? (The students can come to a consensus on one size or a range of sizes. Since these are mini-squares, it's recommended that they be 10 square centimeters or less).
Design and Construct
- Provide constraints and specifications:
- Use only the materials provided.
- The mini-square will define a plot of ground 5-10 square centimeters in size.
- The mini-square tool must lie flat on the ground.
- It must be heavy enough so that it won't blow away.
- It must be sturdy enough to be used many times.
- Students work in groups to plan and sketch their ideas.
- Students build their mini-square tools.
Test Them Out
- Take the mini-square tools outside and give the students time to use them in several different areas.
- Give students time to sketch, take notes, and collect samples, as they did in Square of Life lesson "Field Trip to Your Square."
Evaluation of Designs
- Ask the students: Did your tool stay in place? Did it make it easy for you to study your "mini square?" How could you improve on your design?
- If time allows have the students work on improving their designs.