Chaos. Frustration. Annoyance. “This is too hard.”

These were just some of the thoughts that went through my 5th Graders’ heads as they completed their mini-science fair experiments and Rube Goldberg Machines for our Unit of Inquiry on Forces. But when the students presented their experiments, these were the words that ran through my head: Risk-taker. Thinker. Inquirer. Creative innovator. Wow.

We started the unit with a provocation where the students had to help me figure out a solution to solve a problem I had. The students had many ideas about how to fix my problem, and I just knew that we were going to have fun with this unit.

Dive into Knowledge: Research and Exploration

The students researched for information about the different types of forces and Newton’s Laws of Motion, then took notes in their UOI packets.  We used Readworks articles, nonfiction books from Epic, and video clips about forces to learn about forces and to gather information for our notes. Then they used what they had learned about the different kinds of forces to create videos for our assembly. It was fun to see how the kids could take their learning and find ways of how forces are applicable in their daily lives! Some of the videos contained clips of the kids doing a variety of activities such as:  jumping on a trampoline, flying a drone, using their game controllers, brushing hair, falling into a pool, using applied force on a sibling, and playing with magnets, pencils and balls. Students worked in groups to answer worksheets that had crossword puzzles, finding the missing letters, and discovering clues. As an integration to our Language Arts, the students and I walked through the process of writing a 5-paragraph essay using the prompt: How do forces affect you in real life? The kids had to think about everyday applications of the concepts of forces, and they wrote about these concepts in their essays.

See also: Elementary Extra: Fostering Sustainability Awareness in Second and Third Graders

Project Showcase: Experiments and Rube Goldberg Machines

Our first final project was to conduct and record an experiment where the students can identify and explain the force that was used. The students showed enthusiasm and good presentation skills, as well as a good grasp of the content when they explained the force concept behind their experiments. Some of our projects included creating an egg parachute, a spinning bucket, a soap-powered boat, a paper chair, a warm air spinner, a vortex, a balloon hovercraft, a rice lift, and a rocket launcher. Our second final project was to have the kids create their own Rube Goldberg Machine with a minimum of 5 steps to complete a task. It was exciting to see the students extend themselves through invention and innovation. I am so glad that they never gave up even in the face of adversity!

Here are some of the comments of the kids about their projects:

“…the best part was creating a Rube Goldberg Machine with my parents…”

“I liked making the experiment because it was fun and easy.”

“I liked the Rube Goldberg Machine because I got to use anything to make it.”

The highlight of this unit for me was to see families coming together and having fun as they completed the projects. There was creativity, cooperation, out-of-the-box thinking, and innovation all throughout. Thank you so much to the parents and the students for all the hard work you did to complete these projects!

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