Two challenging but age-appropriate engineering projects highlight this unit. If you’ve taught my other STEM units, however, you know they’re not simply building projects. We’re thinking, learning science concepts, developing explanations, applying math and non-fiction reading skills, and bringing a wide variety of areas into a unit. But let’s not take lightly how cool it is to build and experiment with a cool mini glider and a working windmill!
As usual, we have ready-to-print activity sheets included to guide our thinking, plenty of pictures to go with the instructions for engineering projects, explanations and background, and Common Core State Standards references as well as Next Generation Science standards.
Gather some materials, and away you go!
Time: 8+ hours
Level: Gifted and Advanced 3rd and 4th; whole class 5th and 6th grade
Cost: A little over $1 per student (total for both projects combined), less if materials are purchased in bulk, and many items commonly found in the classroom.
What Makes Wind? Students respond to informational reading and show there understanding of what makes wind in a series of pictures.
Mini Gliders: Students construct mini gliders for an experiment (Note: I also have a full, separate unit in which we build the gliders and apply experiments and content to them.)
Upslope or Anabatic Flow: Students use their mini-gliders to experiment and observe, record their impressions, and reach conclusions. Students analyze an informative graphic and show their understanding in written responses.
Jet Stream: Students gather information through multiple means, make inferences about the language of science, construct a scaled representation of the information, and make more inferences about the jet stream winds.
Windmills: Students build working windmills, explain a process, and are invited to make calculations to solve a word problem with repeated addition of fractions.
Wind Turbines: Students compare the advantages and challenges of wind farms and then form an opinion.