Friday, December 7, 2012

Saving Humpty Dumpty Again

It was time for Humpty Dumpty with the Kindergartners again.  It is a bit rushed this year.  Our school has grown so large over the past two years that in the time that I have been working with the school we have grown from 4 classes to 7.  Getting to all the classes is a challenge, but we managed it this year.

This year in our 30-35 minute sessions we discuss what an engineer is.  Again, from the first session with the kindergartners, they know I don't drive a train, and that I don't injuneer (help people who are injured), but some are still struggling a bit with the idea of designing, but most are getting the idea that engineers are people who design things.  Today, I told them they were to be engineers that designed a safety device to protect Humpty Dumpty from cracking after he falls off the wall.  We talked about a couple of safety devices that they were familiar with:  safety belts and airbags.  I then had them think about what kind of safety devices they would want if they jumped off a wall.  The ideas included a mattress, a pillow, a parachute, and a slide.  I told them to keep these things in mind as they built their designs.

This year our design kit included:

  • a small paper cup
  • two cotton balls
  • a sheet of paper
  • a paper clip
  • 6 inches of tape
  • 2 3 inch pieces of straw
  • a popsicle stick
  • and a 4 inch square piece of paper towel.
I am always amazed at the kinds of designs the kids come up with.  We had one with a paper parachute, and another with a kind of roll bar out of straws and the popsicle stick.  We had a couple of groups that tried the mattress idea, however, they learned that the mattress idea doesn't work too well.   Humpty Dumpty rarely lands on the mattress and usually cracks up.

Here we see the typical design which is the egg in the cup surrounded by paper towel, cotton balls and paper.  If they pad all sides this design usually works pretty well.   Often, the group forgets to cover the side or top and we end up with a cracked egg.  But that is okay, the lesson they take away?  Engineers are not always successful with their first design, and often have to redesign and retest.  They can also use their ideas and combine them with successful ideas they see and make a new design.

The most successful design this year?   A cup padded on the bottom with cotton balls, the sides padded with paper towel and cotton balls, and a roll bar over the top made from straws and popsicle sticks.  One of the most innovative designs?  It was a cup heavily weighted and padded on the bottom but open on the top, with only a rubber band holding the egg in.  The weighted cup always landed with the cup underneath and the egg right side up.  It was an unexpected solution!

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