STudent Spotlight: 2nd Grade Enrichment and the 3-quarter tower

We are all aware of the daily excellence provided here at St. Barnabas and the one of a kind classroom atmosphere that our students get to experience. Today’s spotlight is a testament to this fact. Our second graders involved in the enrichment program have been taking a “hands on” approach to learning the concept of mathematical design and logic for the past two weeks. Before this unit, students were building structures out of common objects such as toothpicks, marshmallows, paper, tape, rubber bands and paper clips. The purpose of this exercise was to present a hands-on exploratory learning experience in creative problem solving. Throughout the progression of the activity, they were given the chance to discover structural techniques and material use that led to success, in other words, lots of trial and error on the students’ part. They also gained first-hand knowledge of working cooperatively with others in their group to where they could foster effective communication and good listening skills.
After a two week break from mathematical design, it was time for the second graders to revisit structures and put the lessons they learned from the previous challenge and the new material from the design unit, to the test. Their new job was named the “three-quarter tower” and the goal was to build a paper plate tower that could physically support weight. Quickly writing off the request as an easy one, the students quickly learned that they needed to accomplish this task only using four paper plates, ten straws, one small package of Model Magic Clay and scissors. Other requirements included the use of at least three plates, but no more than four, and a pie-shaped quarter section had to be cut out of each plate. The structure they were to build would then be scored by height and by the number of weight objects successfully supported by the structure. Given an hour to work in their respective groups, they began building their towers.

Some groups opted for the strategy of building high, while others kept their creations small with the goal of holding the most weight. After finishing and before testing their final results, each group gave a mini-presentation on how they came up with their end product. They detailed their original idea, what worked and what didn’t work. Finally, everyone took estimates of how much weight they thought their structures would hold. Their enrichment supervisor, Morgan Layton, then told the students she had a dollar that they would use to test the structures. Students automatically shouted out “Of course my structure can hold a dollar!” and “That’s so light!” but were shocked when she actually pulled out 100 pennies revealing her “dollar.”

Overall Mrs. Layton was pleasantly surprised by the creations and how many pennies each one ended up holding. What’s more important though are the valuable lessons our second graders were able to take away from this activity: innovation, teamwork, creativity and effective communication. We are always amazed at the effort, imaginations, and hard work of our students, as well as their hunger for knowledge and the opportunity to grow. If anything, our second graders are a testament to this unique quality held by every one of our students.
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