Engineering a Treehouse

This week we have been digging deeper into our KinderStudy of treehouses. One of our learning targets this week was for students to draw and label a high quality blueprint of their treehouse. They worked really hard coming up with ideas and then putting those ideas onto paper. Students drew some of the objects they wanted in and around their treehouses (rope bridges, domes, spiral stairs, platforms, solar panels, slides, doors, ladders, roofs, ziplines, landscaping, etc). This served as a vehicle for introducing new vocabulary words . We are giving these drawings to The Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach. They will be using their them as a basis for 3D printed versions of the students’ drawings. We will include 3D printed objects in our outdoor classroom model.
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After drawing and labeling their blueprints, some of the students presented their blueprints to their classmates. They gave each other feedback using a protocol that says, “Feedback is kind, specific and helpful.” We are going to continue building the skill of giving feedback throughout the year. We have done several Gallery Walks around structures the students have built. During these Gallery Walks, students walk around, look at what their classmates have built, and give each other feedback.

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Lenin’s treehouse blueprint

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Our students are still enamored by ziplines, so we had each student create a zipline out of string and legos. They then experimented with their ziplines to see how they could make them as fast as possible. They discovered that when they used more lego pieces on a string that dipped, it slowed it down, but more lego pieces on a tight string went faster. We also had them test out different heights and angles and they discovered that the ziplines went faster when it was a very high zipline that went straight to the ground and was pulled tight. We also watched some videos of kids who had treehouses with ziplines in their backyards and watched a video that told us that the longest zipline over water is in Haiti.

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Harvard professor Eleanor Duckworth, who was one of Alicia’s teachers at Mission Hill School, came to visit our class this week. We had fun exploring ziplines with her.

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Exploring ziplines with our Principal

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Each student is designing their own individual tree house and will be building a model of it using popsicle sticks next week. They will also be designing and building the landscaping to go around their treehouse. Building their own treehouse will help them continue to develop the skills they will need to design and build treehouses for our outdoor classroom at Savin Hill Cove.

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The 13 Story Tree House

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr. Seuss

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Using the new tree blocks to make a 13 story treehouse and pathway leading up to it

Our engineering challenge this week was for students to build a treehouse that was 13 stories high and sturdy enough that the “big bad wolf” couldn’t blow it down.

This wasn’t something that came easy to them. They had to use their problem solving skills to figure out how to build a 13 story treehouse that could stand alone.

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Cameran’s treehouse kept falling down, so he was really excited when he finally got it to stand up!

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Kids started to collaborate and help each other. They gave each other feedback and we heard them telling each other that, “Your foundation isn’t strong enough” or “You need to make this part sturdier.” Many kids had to start over, while others had an easier time. The students who finished their 13 stories then went around and helped their friends.

Many of the students got frustrated when their treehouse kept falling down, so we talked about the importance of perseverance and not giving up even when things are hard. That is one of our school’s core values that we have been working on. We wanted to give them this experience so that as they are learning to read, they have started to develop the perseverance and grit they need to succeed. Click here to read more about grit, why it is important, and how it helps kids

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We read Jack and Jill Build a Treehouse, we looked at the book Treehouses of the World, and finished reading the 13 story treehouse. This is a chapter book. Students listen to a read-aloud for 30 minutes each day after lunch. Research states that reading books aloud that are above students’ grade level out loud for half an hour each day helps to increase their vocabulary, comprehension, and reading stamina so our students will become lifelong readers. (Click here to read about the research)

This week, students are going to start building their model treehouse out of popsicle sticks and other materials. They will be doing the landscaping for their treehouses as well.

What our students had to say about their learning this week:
“We have our own ideas to build the treehouses that we want to make…”

“Ziplines are cool. They help you get from one place to another without walking.”

“We finished reading the book 13 Story Treehouse. It’s one of the best and funniest books.“

“Our engineering challenge this week was to build a treehouse that was 13 stories high. We had to count and keep checking to make sure we had 13 stories. “

“We finished the chapter book 13 story tree house and are now reading 26 Story Treehouse. “

“We are wondering if we can build a 26 story tree house that would be strong enough for a wolf not to blow down. “

“We had to count 13 stories and use platforms in between the stories. We used materials like different types and sizes of wood, blocks, cardboard squares, plastic bubble squares, cubes, half spheres, cardboard circles and a lot of other stuff. “

“We figured out addition math stories. Not tree house stories. “

“We read the book Jack and Jill Build a Treehouse. We could read a lot of the words in the book. The book has pictures with words. You can read the pictures if you can’t read the words.”

“Our voices are powerful (when we say something we believe in).”

The Power of Girls’ Ideas: National Engineering Week

This week was National Engineers Week, so we looked at the question of how we can use technology to inspire girls around STEM. Women are grossly under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, so we want to help our girls develop an interest in these fields. We hope to ignite a passion in them so they become doctors, architects, scientists and astronomers. We have an opportunity to start this when they are young so they grow up believing that they can and that they have the ability to do so.

We aren’t trying to leave the boys out, but these are male-dominated fields. We want to continue to encourage our boys of color to pursue these fields as well. STEM will open doors of opportunity for all our students. It will help them get into college, earn academic scholarships to pay for college, pursue a career and have a positive impact on the world.

Harvard sponsored an discussion with women who are at the top in STEM fields about the importance of giving girls experience with STEM from a young age. You can hear the presentation and discussions at http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/15/02/space-their-own-girls-women-and-stem

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Our girls designing and drawing the blueprints for their houses and treehouses. Go girls!

We have been reading books about and building models of tree houses. We talked about all the different jobs that have to happen for a house to be built. We read a book by Gail Gibbons called How to Build a House and looked at the engineering process of building a house. We watched a video called How a House is Made that gives a step by step process of how a house is built and talks about the different professionals who are needed (electricians, plumbers, contractors, surveyors, brick masons, architects, engineers, etc). Initally, our students had to come up with and write about a house or a treehouse they wanted to build. Secondly they had to draw a blueprint or a plan for what they wanted to build. We have talked about blueprints before (because builders have to read blueprints to know how big to make things), but this was their first make making their own blueprints. Thirdly students had to build their houses or tree houses based on what they drew in their blueprint. We wanted them to understand that builders have to follow blueprints so they build what the architect designed. We went around and asked kids to show us where their designs were in their blueprint. (Can you show me in your blueprint where you put this door?) They had a lot of “Ah-Ha!” moments about the importance of builders having to “read” a blueprint to check their work. The kids have been looking at non-standard measurement as a part of the TERC Investigations math curriculum (students have been using popsicle sticks, cubes and pennies to measure objects around the classroom). This enables them to make connections between math and real life experiences.

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Reading a blueprint to build a s’more with our K0/K1 book buddies

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Building a house based on the blueprint

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Looking at other student’s houses and treehouses during a Gallery Walk. Students gave each other compliments and feedback about their structures.

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We talked about stories (how many levels) they wanted to make their structures. Quintin decided to build his tree house two stories high.

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Tyree had to persevere and try many times to get his house to stand up. He never gave up until he got it!

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Amarilis was so excited when she was able to build a stable house!

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Our future doctors, engineers, architects, and mathematicians!

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Drawing our blueprints

Following these steps continues to develop their story sequencing and writing skills. The engineering process is connected to both reading (story sequencing) and writing (beginning, next, and the end). When kids are writing we use a graphic organizer to help them organize their ideas visually. It has beginning, middle, next, and end. It is similar to the engineering graphic organizer they used to design their houses, which had them create a plan, enact their plan and then test it out. We have also continued to build houses that the Big Bad Wolf, the Big Bad Boar, and the “Big Bad Ms. Alicia” can’t blow down. We have continued using a variety of materials including blocks, cups, wooden Kapla blocks, cardboard, plastic lids, and bubble wrap. This week was National Engineers Week, so we looked at the question of how we can use technology to inspire girls around STEM. Women are grossly under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, so we want to help our girls develop an interest in these fields. We hope to ignite a passion in them so they become the doctors, architects, scientists and astronomers of tomorrow. We have an opportunity to start this when they are young so they grow up believing that they can and that they have the ability to do so. We aren’t trying to leave the boys out, but these are male-dominated fields. We want to continue to encourage our boys of color to pursue these fields as well. STEM will open doors of opportunity for all our students. It will help them get into college, earn academic scholarships to pay for college, pursue a career and have a positive impact on the world. Harvard sponsored an discussion with women who are at the top in STEM fields about the importance of giving girls experience with STEM from a young age. You can hear the presentation and discussions at http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/15/02/space-their-own-girls-women-and-stem

Dan Cheek from the North Bennett school came to talk to us last week. He talked to the students about his school and explained that he builds cabinets and other things. He talked about the tools carpenters use. The kids told him how we have been looking at pictures of tree houses around the world. He said that he is going to bring in wood from different African countries so they students can see what it looks like.