Challenge students to create a simple TOY based on energy changing forms - clear, simple instructions lead to GREAT projects! Students use free or cheap supplies for their projects, but the results are incredible!
Standards: Middle School NGSS MS-PS3-2 and MS-PS3-5
Lesson: The project starts with a letter from a toy company asking students to design a toy. The letter gives them clear and specific parameters, and includes a student-friendly rubric. The focus of the project is that the toy incorporates energy transformations. The day we assign this project, we use several visuals of simple toys to spark student interest and imagination. We display and discuss wind-up toys (elastic to mechanical), battery-powered toys that flash and make noise (chemical to electrical to sound/light), a Jack-in-the-Box (mechanical to elastic to mechanical), a Slinky (elastic to mechanical), etc. When the projects are completed, students give a simple presentation to the class (the "board of directors") to explain their toy and the energy transformations it demonstrates.
Materials: Students can use whatever they can get their hands on to make their toy. For an idea of how simple the materials can be, just look at some past projects made from upcycled supplies:
Of course, some students will create elaborate designs, but keeping the focus on upcycled materials helps keep ALL students involved, regardless of their ability to buy supplies at a store. While this is designed to be a take-home design challenge project, it would also easily work as an in-class project if you provided various materials such as elastics, plastic cups, paper towel rolls, water bottles, cardboard - whatever you have on hand. In the end, the focus is on the energy transformation that their toy includes.
Differentiation: We have found that giving very few suggestions and providing examples from previous years leads students to be unbelievably creative with their designs. However, for students who need additional support, we find it helpful to suggest making a toy drum or other noisemaker.
What's Included: This document includes (1) clear directions describing the challenge, (2) an easy to follow, student-friendly rubric, and (3) a grid for the students to complete as their peers present their projects. Teacher hints and tips are also included.
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Thumbnail Image Credit: E. Pacheco