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Upper El (Mr. D): New Year, New Build

Happy New Year, everyone! We're back from our break, and it feels good. This week we started with a little catch-up and review and then began a new engineering project.

After ending the week before the break with me being sick, we had to start off with a little catching up. Also, UE was happy to welcome two "new" additions to our classroom, which helped inspire a perfect assignment to get us back into the rhythm of things.

We began on Monday by looking at what we've learned so far this year. I broke that up into four of the most important rules and concepts we've explored: the rules of Gravity, the Law of Conservation of Energy, Newton's First Law, and Elasticity.

Students worked in groups to create a poster for each concept to hang on our science wall. This was great for all our students to revisit their notes or research certain terms again. At the end of the day, each group presented their board to us.

While we worked, I went around and collected the final products from our previous Infographic assignment. Students created infographics to show and explain the energy transfers that occur as a ball falls and bounces back into the air. This helped us explore elastic energy and stay connected to gravitational energy too.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we took a look at our science fair projects and our stories. For our science fair, we're working on making our procedures. Writing a list of steps for an experiment can be tricky, and we often forget to include many steps. It's a good practice, though, to really think through what's going to happen in our experiments. It helps us find problems in our design beforehand.

Thursday, students began drama will Ms. Maya before coming to meet me. With our science fair and stories running smoothly, I introduced a new engineering project. Catapults! We've been exploring elastic energy, so catapults are the perfect way to have some fun with this idea. But, students are finding it a little more challenging than they initially thought.

We can only use popsicle sticks, rubber bands, hot glue, and bottle caps as our materials. The base of the catapult can't be larger than one-foot square. Also, it must be transportable. Given those requirements and the goal of launching a ping pong ball the furthest, plus a second category of the most accurate, they were off!

I also got a bonus afternoon with UE on Friday, where we continued exploring our open projects. Some worked on their stories, others began running their science fair experiments (those testing other students), and others continued experimenting with their catapults.

We spoke about the engineering design process at the end of Thursday to remind students that it's not about being the fastest to build a catapult. They can research, they can test, and make changes. In fact, we're going to have three weeks for students to perfect their designs before our test day. I want students to spend a little more time working with their catapults to really get into the tinkering and tweaking part of engineering.

All in all, it was a great week back with our class. We're in the groove!

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