In a new approach to science and technology fifth graders learn science designing electric cars. Students, who had formed fictional engineering companies, presented their battery-powered toy car designs as the culmination of about two-and-a-half months of work. The audience: their parents and the fourth grade class at St. James Elementary School in Bay City.
Judith Meier, a long-term substitute teacher for math and science at St. James, had originally received the kit for the project from the Society of Automobile Engineers six or seven years ago while working in the Vassar Public Schools district.
Meier said that the project, which fifth-graders at St. James began in December, teaches students about forces, simple machines, and how to make calculations related to such things — all of which are key objectives of the fifth-grade science and math curriculum. Through the project, students then learn how to apply such concepts.
“They learn to work together and apply what they learn in the classroom to real-world situations,” Meier said.
When the students returned from winter break in January, they began designing and building their cars in teams. In some instances, team members had different ideas about about their primary goal. Should they focus on speed, or power? Some were forced to dissolve their fictional companies to begin anew.
“They kept saying, ‘Can we keep working with them?'” chuckled Meier as she described the enthusiasm shown by students.
Max Lopez and his teammate Alex Criste built the only four-wheel drive car in the class.
“I feel awesome because we were the only one,” he said. “I was determined to get a four-wheel drive.”
Max said their car, which they dubbed “Thunder,” has seven gears, which gave it significant power, but also added weight and made the vehicle slower than others. Max said he may want to be a designer when he grows up.
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