Weather-Proofing Challenge

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TJL third-graders in Noreen Paccione’s and Diane Brown’s classes were recently challenged to build weather-proofed structures. However, in an attempt to engage students in taking control of their own learning, they were given no further direction. With the knowledge they already had, students worked together to build structures that could withstand both a hurricane and tornado.

“We didn’t explain to them what a foundation does, or how weather proofing a building keeps water out,” said Ms. Paccione. “With the knowledge they had of both powerful phenomena, they had to figure out to combat them.”

Students congregated outside to test each structure. Groups presented their designs to the class, explaining the reasoning behind the materials they used, and why they believed it would be safe.

“We build our house on a platform so the area below would flood, but none of the house would flood,” one group explained.

Each structure then went through hurricane conditions, which consisted of large cups of water being dumped overtop. If the structures foundation didn’t flood, it passed the first test. Next, a giant leaf blower was turned on the structure to test whether it could withstand a tornado. Most of the groups passed both tests, and they were very proud of their work.

“Students respond positively when they’re encouraged to take control of their learning,” said Ms. Paccione, “and we try to teach in a way that provides students with continuous hands-on opportunities.”