The Makerspace is the perfect setting for innovative teaching.

Sixth graders are learning about precision measurement in math class. Mr. Holloway wanted a hand-ons project to challenge their critical thinking skills, so he took them over to the Makerspace last week to put them to the test. The activity required students to work together in small teams to both design and build a working scale. Instead of providing a series of instructions, he left it very open-ended and gave the students the freedom to come up with their own solutions.

“The goal was to build a working scale that can balance with two objects,” says Holloway. “They took fifteen minutes to research designs online. A few were fairly complex, but that wasn’t the point.”

The issue was that the project required careful measurement, precision and attention to detail. “They quickly realized that small errors in measurement early in the process caused bigger issues later, continued Holloway. “A few had to entirely redesign their scales because of this. That activity of trial and error is very fluid. Taking those small failures, recognizing and identifying what went wrong and then making the changes needed to correct the error is ongoing throughout the project. It’s a terrific exercise in critical thinking and learning through failure.”

“I don’t want them sitting at their desk all day, that isn’t engaging. That’s not how you spark a passion for learning.”

~ Mr. Holloway

“Sure, we could teach this unit sitting at our desks hunched over a tablet or laptop, but what we prefer to do is get the students into an environment that is hands-on and challenging. I don’t want them sitting at their desk all day, that isn’t engaging. That’s not how you spark a passion for learning.”

This particular unit prepares students for balancing equations which is the next unit of study in math.

However, first they need to balance their scales!

 

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