Archive for Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hands-on science

Glenwood Ridge students dive into science, math projects

August 31, 2006

Fifth-graders at Glenwood Ridge Elementary School replaced their regular science and math lessons this week with robots, rockets and a tour of the Airline History Museum at STARBASE, The Kansas National Guard Youth Program.

About 50 students, fifth-grade teachers Laura Justice and Valerie Toomey and parent volunteers traveled to the Kansas National Guard Armory in Kansas City, Kan., each day this week to get hands on math and science lessons. The program aims to help students' comprehension in math and science, set personal goals and learn from positive role models.

While the program is usually reserved for Title 1 schools, Glenwood Ridge applied and was extended an invitation because there was open space.

"We were able to expand the program and bring in five new schools this year," said Tamara Lasseter, instructional assistant for STARBASE.

Students were broken up into 10 groups of five for the week and given a flight name. Each flight name coincided with the phonetic alphabet such as Alpha, Bravo and Charlie, which the students will memorize and be tested over at the end of the week. One parent volunteer or teacher, called a flight leader, was assigned to each group.

Let's get moving

Newton's three laws of motion were demonstrated Tuesday morning through several experiments. In one experiment, students were "shrink-wrapped" using a giant plastic bag and a vacuum.

"The students had to identify which law was exhibited in each of the 10 experiments," Toomey said.

Jason Johnston, site coordinator for STARBASE, along with Lasseter -- both certified teachers -- also showed the group how to begin building and programming a robot from a Lego kit and a computer program.

Group members in each flight were assigned a specific job for the day. Project managers were in charge of the kit, builders were responsible for putting pieces of the robot together and programmers were in charge of operating the computer program. Johnston encouraged the students to communicate and work together.

"Use descriptive words to help the project manager," he said. "You will have different jobs next time. It's important that you pay attention to everyone else's job."

Students enjoyed following voice commands on the computer, downloading commands onto the RCX, which acts as the brain of the robot and watching their robots move back and forth, turn in circles and even dance.

After their introduction to robots, each flight of students had 10 minutes to work together to design the perfect straw rocket and take turns launching it from an air launcher.

"Your goal is to try to figure out the right trajectory and the right height to hit the bull's eye on the target," Lasseter said.

A straw acted as the base, a piece of clay was used for the nose cone and tail fins were fashioned from construction paper.

Zach Holtgrew of the Juliet flight led the team in designing the fins.

"I think we should round the tip off more like that," he said, drawing an example on the construction paper.

Learning continues

Other activities of the week included designing a safety seat to protect an egg -- named Lt. Eggbert -- from breaking while following specific guidelines; step-by-step construction of rockets, which they will shoot off today; a visit to the Armory's repair shop; and a tour of the Airline History Museum.

Lasseter said the museum, which is at the old Kansas City airport, features one of the only flying TWA Constellations remaining. It was used in the movie "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," and students get a chance to sit in the seat star Jim Carrey sat in during filming.

All of the information the students learn from these activities at STARBASE this week will be used in the classroom throughout the year.

"We will do experiments after the week is over in the flight log books," Toomey said. "They're going to receive grades for this too."

While the students are learning about math and science this week, Lasseter said STARBASE is not just focused on these two subjects.

"We try to instill teamwork, following directions, politeness and manners and respect," she said. "We also try to foster success in different ways. Hopefully in all the challenges we give them, they find that they are successful in some fashion."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.