Monday, May 4, 2015

Helicopters and Seed dispersion


During one of my first STEM workshop series classes we made these really simple, fun paper helicopters. We approached the task from an engineering perspective and were challenge to make them "better" in some way. I lost the original version of the template I had from class so I went looking online and found one that I could print from here.

Not the best picture but a completed helicopter is there on the table, it is the piece with the paperclip on the bottom.

Then a few weeks ago I was working on planning out a lesson that I could using during my elementary STEM special. Since it is spring I wanted to start doing some lessons that related to nature and would lead into us getting outside soon. It was still chilly and rainy so I needed a lesson for inside and went scrounging through my closet looking for ideas.

Last spring a small collection of rocks, fossils, and other items collected from nature was donated to my classroom by a local man. In the containers I also found a collection of seed pods and nuts that had been collected from around the country. I decided to do a lesson a plant adaptations for seed dispersal. I found some ideas online and printed some pictures of other types of seeds to go along with the samples that I had.

My dilemma was that I wanted more of a hands on activity - I had the sorting activity but I wanted something that they would make or build or model. Then BINGO...a light went off as I was looking at the seeds that fell out of a pinecone. Helicopters. The seeds were helicopters and spun the same way that the paper helicopters from my STEM workshop did. We could make those and use them as a model.

My seed helicopter inspiration.

The kids loved it! After we made and played with the helicopters we talked about a model. I asked them to tell me what parts of our model were like a seed helicopter. The paperclip was like the seed at the bottom and the paper wings were similar to the wings on the seed helicopter. I asked them why it was useful to make a model and got the answer that it was bigger so it was easier to see how it moved. The kids left with homework to take their helicopters and trying making changes to see how it affected their movement. They had ideas such as adding more weight or changing the shape of the wings to be more rounded like what we saw on the seeds.

This week we are starting the Egg Drop Challenge - I was excited to see one team sketching out wings for their design based on how the seed model helicopters traveled. More on that project to come after we finish it.

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