Biomimicry: Creating Shoes for the Rainforest

One of my very favorite subjects is the concept of biomimicry, or in layman terms, science copying nature to solve problems and design products. First graders recently learned about how science uses the amazing ways of nature both in plants and animals to make products for humans. They used this idea to design shoes, yes shoes.

Watch how science has copied nature here.

The challenge is to design a pair of shoes that mimics an animal’s foot in the rainforest, enabling them to be able to live, and do as that animal does in it’s habitat. Now, will these shoes work as intended? Probably not, but they are prototypes;  out of the box ideas for new designs and solutions to problems. Take a peek at the kids working on their shoes below. I will add more photos as they finish their projects.

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Parts, Purposes and Complexities

A few other teachers and I decided to take one of Harvard’s Zero Project’s online courses named “Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom”. As part of this course, we are collaborating on a shadow puppet play that involves the disciplines of science, music, art and the script skills of some of our English Learners.

One of the tasks of the class was to have students take apart something and look closely at the pieces. We, as teachers, did it first by taking apart an old pencil sharpener. My students are working with the theme of light for the shadow puppet play so to connect with that theme we took apart flashlights. Here are some of their discoveries:

Sphero Watercraft Challenge

We started off this year with a challenge involving our Sphero robotics. Students had to stay within a material budget of $15 and create a watercraft that could deliver 10-20 pennies across our pool and back. Students that were able to complete the challenge had to consider the scientific properties of the materials they were using and consider how to best position the Sphero to maximize their ability to move through the water. Here are some photos of our trials and our final challenge. It proved to be more difficult than the students thought it would be! It would be interesting to try this again at the end of the year and see how they fare…

 

Studio B

Teaching new and innovative classes tasks some risk and also is a bit of balancing act for teachers who take on these very important ventures.  Last year, I split my time between Flynn and the Burlington Technical Center.  At BTC I was tasked with creating a new pre-tech program and also creating a maker space.  Below are some pictures from the space and a write up done by Lucie Delabruere who used the space for her summer maker class.

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Lucie´s blog post about Studio B can be found here:  http://createmakelearn.blogspot.com/2017/08/learning-about-maker-spaces-in-our.html

 

2016-17 STEAM Mash Up

We had an exciting year last year with many integrative and engaging projects for our students at Flynn.  Below is a bit of a visual mash up of these projects.

The highlights of the 2016-17 school year was a collaborative mosaic project, inspired by local artist Peter Katz, with Generator, 5th grade team, Art and STEAM.  The students each created a beautiful wooden mosaic that exemplified their understanding of their ecosystem unit.  Also, we created an Arduino (external hard drive) controlled weather station to gather data about weather right on Flynn campus!  You can see it on the south side of Flynn´s roof.  You can access our live weather data here:  https://www.wunderground.com/personal-weather-station/dashboard?ID=KVTBURLI32#history

 

Diving into Wind Energy

As part of the fourth grade energy unit, students and teachers spend time discussing and learning about renewable energy;  itś pros and cons and how different methods work.  To integrate and allow students a deeper look into wind energy, in STEAM we have been investigating wind turbine models.  We explored the following questions:

  • How does this turbine model connect to Michael Faraday´s research on electromagnetism?
  • How does the wind energy transfer to electricity?
  • Does the number of blades affect voltage created?
  • Does the angle of blades affect voltage created?

Additionally, each group learned how to accurately read a volt meter, keep data and even tried to see if they could produce enough electricity with the turbine model to light a small bulb!