Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How will kids know?

Getting started with West Point Bridge Design
It's STEM week for 6-7's.  That's science, technology, engineering and math. Teachers and students have embraced working in small "companies" each submitting an RFP for a bridge project.  Their challenge is:  Design and build a bridge from spaghetti that is a scale model of a 1,200 foot span to go from Selkirk to Castleton.  Materials have an assigned value ($1,500,000 per pound of spaghetti; $5,000,000 for hot glue gun rental per day)  Teams consist of a civil engineer, an environmental engineer and a project manager.

This article from The Innovative Educator about whether kids learn without testing is right on target.  The author holds a conversation with a test believer:

I say, “Do you take tests?”

They say, “Not anymore,” and smile like, “You’ve got to be kidding…”

I say, “Are you great at everything you do?”

They say, “Um…No. Obviously.” And laugh uncomfortably.

I say, “How do you know?”

Well - people just know!  And in the instance of the bridge project the kids can document what they learned by reflecting and referring to a rubric (Did our team present lots of content that was learned in the project, informative, and held the audience's attention? Did the bridge construction demonstrate all facets of the engineering roles and is load bearing?)

Is the project rigorous?  Memorable?  Highly worthwhile and relevant to future learning?  Can you answer that without a test?

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