Duct Tape, Cardboard and Bubble Wrap
A trip to the local hardware store for two giant rolls of duct tape and some scrap wood recently resulted in building understanding and empathy in some Grade 7 classes at Elma Township Public School. Each year, Elma, like other schools, supports the Terry Fox run to raise funds for and awareness about cancer. This year, a Student Success teacher and a Grade 7 literacy teacher teamed up to increase empathy into this cause by integrating literacy with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).
In small groups, the students became biomedical engineers for a few days as they created prosthetic legs. Using the website teachengineering.org as a starting point, the teachers designed lessons linking Terry Fox’s journey to STEAM. After discovering that the key characteristics of an effective prosthetics are strength, durability, longevity, shock absorption, lifelikeness and comfort, students planned how to use specific materials to support these characteristics by measuring and sketching a plan.
The teachers supplied some scrap lumber and duct tape while students brought in materials such as small pieces of lumber, bubble wrap, and cardboard to enhance their designs. Then, they continued the process by measuring again, constructing their prototypes and testing them (bending a knee and resting it on the prosthesis). The final steps of putting this handiwork into motion involved explaining the use of materials and their function, sharing the work with their peers and reflecting on their designs.
During the lesson, students could be heard saying phrases such as “Don’t do it all, I want a turn,” “Do we have to go to gym, can’t we stay and finish this?” and “I have never got to do anything like this before at school,” showing how student engagement can be increased by the use of everyday, around the house materials in classrooms. Students also gained a better understanding of Terry Fox’s journey as they were able to walk in “Terry’s shoes” by feeling what is was like to wear a prosthetic prototype.
This class and other classes across the AMDSB board look forward to more experiential opportunities during the year through partnerships with the Student Success team members.