Lab coats, safety goggles, and Erlenmeyer flasks? Not quite, but this week was Science week!
The day started with the students creating a ping pong launcher for their Design Challenge. The challenge was two-fold: launch the ping pong ball as far as possible and use as many materials that contributed to the functionality of the design as possible. The students were allowed to use any resources possible to aid in their design (Google!), but the design could not be hand-held nor could it be human powered (i.e., the ball could not be thrown or blown). The groups would get points based on distance, materials used, and collaboration. Most groups elected to use an elastic sling shot type launcher, while others chose the catapult approach.
After lunch we read the book “Ada Twist, Scientist”. It was about a little girl developing into an aspiring scientist. We talked about what image came into the student’s minds when they thought about scientists. We also discussed some of the varied fields of science, such as biology, chemistry, and archaeology. We focused on the biology and the study of water. The discussion moved towards how lucky Canada was to have an abundance of clean drinking water. We talked about other countries, such as those in Africa, that aren’t as fortunate as Canada. We then watched a video about Freedom Road 40 and the Shoal Lake community and how they have not had clean drinking water for over 17 years. The students were quite surprised and upset that communities in Canada had a lack of access to such a basic necessity. We discussed what we could do to help the community and settled on creating a water filter. And that’s just what we did!
We separated into groups and the students were tasked with researching a water filter by using Google. The students were restricted to certain materials though: coarse and fine gravel, coarse and fine sand, activated charcoal, cheesecloth, cotton balls, and elastics. The students went to work searching and designing. After about 10 minutes, an alarm was played and the students had to stop their designs. We wouldn’t want to make it too easy for them. At this point, the students were told they had to randomly select a country. The countries would have different budgets and literacy rates. This was represented by the amount of monopoly money the groups would receive and whether or not they could read the provided instructions. The countries with the lower literacy rates had the instructions printed in the WingDings font. The budgets ranged from $800 for Canada down to $20 for Ethiopia. Chaos ensued when the groups opened their packages. “Woohoos” came from the Canada group while a “WHAT?? That’s not fair” came from Ethiopia. The students then went to work creating their filters while staying on trying to stay on budget. After, we discussed how it felt to be the different countries. The students were asked if any “foreign aid” was provided or if any countries collaborated together. There were some exasperated sighs when they realized they could do that! We then did the activity again, this time each group started with equal materials. They had to see which group could create the best filter. The students found out that if they squeezed their filter to speed up the process it would actually let more particulate matter through, as the cheesecloth was stretched and became more porous. We wrapped up by discussing which water looked cleaner and how the groups felt through the activities.