Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What's Going on In Science Class? Paper Chains!

Happy Wednesday Friends! I am so glad you are joining me for my weekly STEM series....
Last year I did try to blog about our STEM experiences each Wednesday. 
So, to continue to offer you glimpses into our lab I will add something here every week! 
This week was our first week back at school and we tried a really, really, really easy STEM task using only ONE supply.

STEM Challenge: Build a paper chain! Using one piece of paper make the longest chain you can!
I mean, how simple is that?
Paper.
One sheet.
I did offer the use of tape or staples.
The kids were told this:
"Make a paper chain with one sheet of paper. You may cut it and you may use tape or staples. Your goal is to make the longest chain you can."
Here they are at work.
STEM Challenge: Build a paper chain! Using one piece of paper make the longest chain you can!
This type of chain was, by far, the most popular version.
STEM Challenge: Build a paper chain! Using one piece of paper make the longest chain you can!

But, some adventurous little engineers thought of something else.Take a look below:
STEM Challenge: Build a paper chain! Using one piece of paper make the longest chain you can!

STEM Challenge: Build a paper chain! Using one piece of paper make the longest chain you can!
I was asked by a few kids if the chain had to be loops or interlocking circles (yes, some of them used the word interlocking!). My answer to that question was a shrug.
Here are some finished chains.
STEM Challenge: Build a paper chain! Using one piece of paper make the longest chain you can!
The one above is precious. This was made by a group of third graders that did not know how to make an interlocking chain, but knew how it should look. So, they drew it on paper! Can you see the pencil marks? Then they cut it out and then cut the centers out. That was it- there was not enough paper left to add to it. But, y'all, what a great effort.

STEM Challenge: Build a paper chain! Using one piece of paper make the longest chain you can!
The ones above are just different views of some of the chains made. Our longest of all was 31 feet.

Now, what was the point of this?
Here's where a genius teaching moment popped in my head- a Brain Pop!
As soon as we started to stretch the chains out on the floor to share I heard kids complaining that the "chains" that were just strips of paper were not real chains.
So, I said, "What is a chain?"
We pieced together all the responses and basically decided a chain is anything that is connected. A chain of events, a chain  reaction, a chain necklace. But it does not have to be interlocking circles.
So, why did we immediately think the straight line chains were unfair? It's all about our perception of the task. We each bring our own perspective or perception to each task and this is why we sometimes disagree, but by listening to one another we can work out the best possible way to complete a task.
It was a DELIGHTFUL discussion and I had a student say this, "But, Mrs. Davis, isn't that what life is?" Wow! 
Yes, life is about not letting your perceptions, perspectives, or prejudices be your only way to make a decision! 
I decided this was a perfect way to start our year in the STEM Lab!
Come back next week for another edition of:



7 comments :

  1. Isn't it awesome to see how their little minds work? I love seeing students work on science! Nice read - will be re-pinning on my Pinterest boards.
    Have a delightful school year!
    Angela from Mrs. Willyerd's Virtual Classroom

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    1. Thanks for visiting Angela! I love watching kids solve problems in the lab! They think so differently than me!

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  2. Such a perfect, easy idea! I'm going to do that with my kiddos today!

    Jamie
    Life As I Know It

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  3. What an exciting, open-ended problem for kids to tackle. I love the discussion the kids engaged in as they presented and defended their work. Maybe as a follow-up activity you could challenge them to design the strongest chain. How would they modify their design? Would staples or tape be the best tool? Is there another way they could attach the paper together? I can't wait to try it out in class. Thank you for the idea!

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    1. Thank you for the additional ideas! Have fun trying this and thanks for visiting my blog!

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  4. I did this STEM challenge with my class today as part of my "Get to Know your Brain" and "Growth Mindsets unit. Wow!! It was so much fun. Who knew something so inexpensive and simple could provide such a rich learning and team building experience. I too, had a variety of chain styles. My inclusion assistant stared in awe as she looked up the definition of a chain and realized the kids who were making the end to end change were just as correct as the interlocking chain teams. I was so impressed with my class and it's only the first week of school! Thank you for posting this activity, it really helped my students practice growth mindsets.

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    1. I am so glad you tried this! It's really an interesting event. Some kids have no idea what to do and some immediately start making those looped chains. I did this about two weeks ago (again) with third graders and we had one chain that was 26.5 feet long! It's a fabulous beginning of the year activity! Thanks for visiting!

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