Set up a fair test to find the best colour to wear when walking along the road.
Design and make a device that will project a ping pong ball 4 metres into a container.
Using newspaper, build a framework strong enough to… hold a 100g mass 50cm above a table.. hold a cup of water… hold a cream egg… span a 50cm gap between tables and hold 100/200/500g
Consider how to find out of a full balloon weighs more than an empty one.
How much stretch does an elastic band have?
Using squared paper, always the same size, fold a series of rafts with different area bases and different height sides. Which design holds the greater mass?
In an earlier post, I developed the idea of a 200% curriculum; English is in every subject. I make no apology for that, as my early teaching career was influenced by the writing of Harold Rosen, whose notion that “Each school should have an organised policy for language across the curriculum, establishing every teacher’s involvement in language and reading development throughout the years of schooling.” became a central feature of “A Language for Life”, better known as the Bullock Report, published in 1975. Rosen had earlier written The Language of Primary School Children (1973).
However, a flight of fancy took me to the notion of putting other subjects at the core. The articulation of the need for technologists and engineers within the economy, pointed me towards Design Technology (DT). According to Wikipedia, Design Technology is “ the study, design, development, application, implementation, support and management of computer and non-computer based technologies for the express purpose of communicating, using various mediums, product design intent and constructability as well as to facilitate product operation and maintenance and to ultimately improve overall product design realization, construction, operation and maintenance.” Therefore it is the science of making detailed things, with a purpose, a very human activity, that distinguishes us from other primates. DT is a relatively new subject, in that it has been aided by the development of ICT, so the recent histories are linked.
Consider the following; design and make a paper aeroplane that will fly at least five metres. This is a very simple example which could be given to a child of 6/7 years. Where would the child start? Paper is the specified medium, so perhaps collecting a selection of papers would help. Exploring the papers to discover and describe (orally or in writing) the features of each would provide familiarity with the material. The need to create an aeroplane shape would require research, orally, by asking an “expert”, using library sources, or looking this up on the internet. Copying a previously made example provides the task to be practiced. To achieve the flight of five metres might require trial and error methodology, with adaptations and adjustments explored. Watching and collaborating with others, discussing refinements and persevering are all essential skills for life and work.
DT can support other subjects very easily. English is enhanced through discussion, recording, research and a final report. The mathematics of measurement is supported throughout and can be adjusted within the activity. Equally, if a number of planes are made and tested, the activity can create data activities. The history of flight and the geography of airports and air travel can be explored. Dance, drama, music and art can derive stimulus from flight. Problem solving, project management, collaboration and cooperation, persistence, evaluation are all side products. Working in this way can also support PSHE, as learners begin to see strengths in each other.
An example from my teaching career springs to mind. The topic for a period of time was sports. During one week, I decided to use the long, wide corridor near my classroom to set a challenge. On day one, the group of eight seven year olds whom I thought had the greatest independence were challenged to create (design and make) a crazy golf hole, using materials available within the classroom. They had the morning as their working time. In the first fifteen minutes, they collected a range of items which might be useful. This was followed with a group discussion around a large piece of sugar paper, with ideas drawn and discussed The build process started from the agreed plan, but soon adjustments were made, deigned to be improvements. After an hour, they had their golf hole. A period of measuring and drawing secured the design for posterity and allowed later consideration of scale, as drawings were tidied onto squared paper. Photographs were taken for reference. The main task was the use of the hole to see how many shots and how long it took for different class members to complete. This tally and timing data was later collated into charts. The group explained before starting what needed to happen to each class member, so everything was “fair”. Before lunchtime, the group sat together to reflect on what had been achieved, both in terms of measureable outcomes, but also in terms of their personal development. The maturity levels of all were enhanced, as they saw the purposes of the different aspects of learning and set the tone for subsequent groups to follow. Follow up included instruction writing, developed into reports, scale drawings for the more able, but sketch maps with measurements for all. The quality of discussion was very high, as children had had a shared experience.
Problem solving defines the purpose for learning. The clarity with which the learner can define for themselves the point of learning provides the driving force for achievement. How much learning is lost because the learner can’t see the point?
Consider WIIFM = What’s In It For Me? Would it be better to replace WALT (We are learning to) or LO (Learning Objectives) with WIIFM, so that learners are placed at the heart of their learning?