Sunday, March 13, 2016

Go-Cart Collaboration Across Levels: Take Two!

Yes, I know it is the middle of March and I just realized this collaboration day took place almost a month ago :( I am embarrassed it has taken me this long to post this...Angela and I will both agree that the month of February was a crazy, whirlwind of activity in T.E.A.M. Togetherness. Between the end of the quarter, parent teacher conferences, visitors, guest teachers, amazingly fun activities, even an extra day, the month flew by and this post sat in our "drafts" for far too long. 

About a month ago we had another awesome morning with Mike Mohammad's AP Physics students from Brookfield Central High School. After our first collaboration day back in December, Mike and I knew we wanted to get the "bigs" and "littles" together for another day of Physics Fun! Knee deep into our Models and Designs unit, Mike came over to Swanson to observe what we were learning and help me figure out how we could make the connection. When he saw our students would be designing and building self-propelled go-carts, he quickly found a perfect fit!

4th Grade Go-Cart Challenge
Use the supplies provided to design and build a self-propelled go-cart that can move 2 meters on its own

Our students were divided into groups and given their baggy of supplies. They were super excited about the challenge and were quick to design conceptual models and jump into the self-propelled challenge. Within minutes, Angela and I began to see the students' frustration grow. They could easily design a go-cart that could roll down a ramp, but they were stumped when facing the self-propelled challenge. We let them struggle for a while and listened in for glimmers of hope. As the conversation and collaboration continued, students started to figure out that the rubber bands in their bags would be the most realistic item to get the go-carts moving on their own. Other groups decided they needed larger wheels. 

After a day or two of working with their small groups, we met as an entire class to discuss the problems we were facing. We then shared out solutions! That is when the magic started to happen...groups started listening and coaching each other. They started sharing ideas, creative juices were flowing, and the go-cart creations started coming together. The grown ups in the space took a back seat and we let the students take over! We had one group of young ladies quickly meet the 2 meter challenge. We celebrated their success, and then encouraged them to share their design with the other groups. They then went out and became our resident experts on self- propelled carts. Within 4 days, all of the groups when from bags of supplies to functioning, self-propelled carts. They were ready to video their cars in motion.

All groups were able to get their go-cart moving on it's own, so they each had the opportunity to have their go-cart video taped for analysis. Some of the go-carts traveled beyond the 2 meter challenge, many did not. Regardless of the distance, the videos were then sent to Mike's students. They used an app called Video Physics to measure the velocity and acceleration of each go-cart vehicle. The high schoolers then created detailed reports that were tailored to each group's go-cart and, more importantly, comprehendable to our 4th graders. They included graphs and explanations that related directly to our Models and Designs learning. The conversations between the engineers from BCHS and Swanson were amazing, to say the least!

Along with investigating the motion of our student's go-carts, the high school students orchestrated five interactive motion stations. Mike, once again, AMAZED all of us with his creativity and work with his high schoolers. Our kiddos were exploring, learning, and in heaven the entire time! If only my high school science courses were this engaging and fun!!

Station 1: Speed Tubes
In this station the BCHS students showed our 4th graders the basics of speed using color tubes filled with air bubbles. The bubbles rose at different rates and our 4th graders used collaboration, and mathematics of course, to measure the speed of the bubbles.

Station 2: Acceleration Cars

What kid doesn't love a wind up car? Using fun pull-back cars, our 4th graders learned the difference between acceleration and speed. They looked at ways to measure acceleration and they even explored how mass affects acceleration.

Station 3: 1st Law Pucks
Newton's First Law of Motion is often stated as An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Using Air Pucks and a TON of interaction, our 4th graders learned more about Newton's First Law of Motion. The Air Pucks, hovering on a cushion of air, helped bring this difficult concept to reality.

Station 4: Energy Coasters

What 4th grader doesn't love roller coasters? This station showed our students the affect gravity has on roller coaster movement. They also discussed free-fall acceleration on other planets. Our students used an awesome simulation tool to build their own skate tracks on different planets. So cool!

Station 5: Motion Sensor Graphs
Our 4th graders have been working with graphs all year and learning the difference between the X and Y axis. At this station, our kids developed a deeper understanding of the X and Y time graph. They learned what different shapes on the graph mean and they used a motion sensor to graph their own movement. They also used this station to practice their Whip Nae Nae!

As I type up these station descriptions, I am thoroughly impressed at what our 4th graders are tackling (and UNDERSTANDING!) with the help of Mike Mohammad and his amazing high school students. I am incredibly thankful for this collaboration time and I LOVE our time together. Also glad that Laura, from Epiphany Learning, was able to pop in and see our two groups in action! One more science unit Mr. Mohammad...the Human Body! I can't wait to see what we come up with next!! 

~ Kate


  1. The bigs were so impressed by your littles! We at Central love the opportunity to collaborate. It makes the learning we are doing more authentic. It forces (punny) the AP students to have a true working knowledge of these concepts in that they have to explain it to an audience who doesn't have the same assumed knowledge.

  2. What a fantastic collaboration and learning opportunity for everyone!