Third graders are learning about what it means to create designs for solving specific problems and addressing real-world needs. In a recent science unit, lower school science teacher Sue Shirley challenged the students with design problems that required them to brainstorm, collaborate, plan, and test.  

After successfully building 10-inch towers which animals in a swamp could use to escape from hungry alligators, the third graders were ready to begin the work of devising a building code for earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Working with partners and using only tape, pipe cleaners, index cards, and coffee stirrers, each group learned to “construct” a basic building unit. Then, they put the units together in a variety of configurations and tested them on a shake table. Everyone agreed that buildings constructed in earthquake zones should include specifications for a wide base and should not exceed two floors! Check out the photos and videos of the testing in action.