Archive for Thursday, September 29, 2005

Go, go veggie racer!

Students test science principles with edible cars

September 29, 2005, 12:00 a.m.

Updated: September 29, 2005, 10:29 a.m.

A Lansing Middle School science lab smelled like a farmers market during a class experiment Monday.

Sheila Martin's sixth-grade science classes were performing a "fruit-and-veggie car" experiment. The students had to devise miniature cars made from fruits or vegetables and one wooden skewer to find which design would roll the farthest down a cardboard ramp and across the room.

Two other sixth-grade science teachers at the school, Jennifer Kolb and Kelly Riemann, also performed the experiment with their classes this week.

Martin said the project was the culmination of a unit on the inquiry model, during which students learned about the scientific method. The designers of each car wrote hypotheses that their car would perform the best. The class performed trials to test each model.

The project was a way to help the students remember what they had learned, Martin said.

"I think that they really know the inquiry model well now, and they have a comfort level with the information they've learned over the past few weeks," she said.

Plus, students got a reward for finishing the experiment.

"When you're done, you can eat your car," Martin told the class.

Students had a variety of combinations that they thought would accomplish the feat: a potato with lime wheels, a cucumber with cherry tomato wheels, a banana with brussels sprouts and apples for wheels.

The reasoning behind the combinations was different for each group. Royal Gatson said for his car, the materials were a matter of thrift.

"I had to buy it, and I picked the cheapest ones," he said.

When Royal and his partner, Ashley Warren, were up to test their vehicle, they stated for the class their combination, a cucumber with lemons, so it could be recorded.

"It sounds like a salad," one of their classmates remarked.

The cucumber-and-lemon car went 8 feet, 4 inches.

Megan Dike and Andy Walter chose a zucchini with two apples and two oranges for wheels. Andy said the zucchini he brought wasn't his first choice.

"I was going to bring a bigger one, but we ate it for dinner," he said.

In the trial, the zucchini car lost its oranges and stopped 6 feet, 9 inches from the starting point, which was about average for the class.

The winning vehicle in the class was a cucumber that used two half-oranges and two half-apples for wheels. It didn't follow a straight path, but it stopped 14 feet, 3 inches from the starting point.

Matt Bennett, who created the car with his partner, Chris Fordlee, said he originally planned to use a carrot, but his father suggested a cucumber.

"My dad explained that it's heavier and would go farther because of the weight," Matt said.

Though her second class used mostly cucumbers for the car bodies, Martin said carrots were popular in her first class.

"In general, carrot bodies did do better this morning," she said.

No matter how the students fared, Martin said the exercise would enrich their educational experience.

"Regardless of the outcome, they're still learning," she said.

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