Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Teacher Spotlight: Mrs. Nadorff, Science PBL Roller Coasters

Teacher Spotlight: Mrs. Nadorff, 6th Grade Science
Forms of Energy Roller Coaster

Today's spotlight looks at the engaging PBL Project Mrs. Nadorff designed for her students in her 6th grade Science classes.  

What are the students doing?

      My students are building roller coasters out of paper and card stock.  The roller coaster should be able to safely move a marble from the top of the roller coaster to the bottom of the roller coaster.  My students are also making a brochure to go with their roller coasters.  

What do you hope students accomplish by completing this activity?  
      I hope that students are able to apply their knowledge of shapes, simple machines, and slope to build a roller coaster that will have a marble move down hill for 30 seconds.  I would like  for students to describe how potential energy is shown when the marble is at the top of their hills on their roller coaster.  I would also like for students to see how the marble has kinetic energy as it's moving down hill.  Some students may be able to see the marble demonstrate more or less kinetic energy due to the slopes and heights of their tracks.  Finally, I want for students to make a brochure highlighting potential energy, kinetic energy and the Law of Conservation on energy for their roller coasters.  In their brochures, they are going to have to attract their audience with their description of their themed roller coasters.  They will also need to include graphs of when their roller coaster demonstrates potential and kinetic energy.  Finally, their brochure should include pictures that lure the audience to what to check out their ride.  

How did this activity tie to your standards?  

Students are expected to be able to identify potential energy and kinetic energy from information or a graph.  Student are also expected to understand the law of conservation of energy.  Simple machines and types of energy are a part of the SC state standards.  Their roller coasters and brochures gave students real world applications for potential and kinetic energy.  Students also learned how energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred.  This was the main point in making their roller coasters.  The law of conservation of energy is a difficult concept for students to understand because there's not much out there the students can relate to.  Once they made their roller coasters and we started discussing the law of conservation of energy, it was much easier for students to understand this concept and relate it to their project.   Simple machines and types of energy were also discussed when making their roller coasters and in some of the designs the students had. Simple machines in their projects included an inclined plane and a screw.

How did this activity promote student learning?

         The key component to this project was student engagement.  Students had a purpose to their learning, therefore they were excited to come to class and work on their projects.  I've never heard so many students say they didn't want to leave my class because they loved what they were doing.  Students were having so much fun collaborating and creating that they did not pay attention to time going by during my class.  Once students bought into the design and creating process of the project, the information to go with their roller coasters and the analyzing their work (the hard part) was something they were more than willing to do.  From the designing, to making, building and rebuilding, analyzing, creating informational text and presenting their information, learning was an essential part of the entire process of their roller coaster project.  

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Make Common Sense Common (MCSC) by Tyler Abernathy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.