Wow, this is the nicest comment ever! Thank you for the lovely feedback - it's great to know my sharing is helpful! Great question - and you might not like this answer, but honestly, just START. I know you're probably going to be skeptical, but I've been doing this bridge-building thing for years, long before I was teaching a TAG class. It worked with my general education students when I was teaching in the Bronx, just as it works with my current students. And it's a lot easier than it sounds. YOU do not need to know how to build a bridge to make this work. I promise you, if you just put a bowl of gumdrops and a box of toothpicks out in your classroom, you will be totally amazed at what your kids build. You don't need to have ANY "rules" or directives - they will naturally figure out how to make all sorts of awesome "stuff." Framing it as a challenge and teaching them about the engineering process is just icing on the cake - it's really the open-ended building that matters. So where's the "teaching," you're probably wondering. Well, you can keep it as simple as circulating while the kids are building, and leading small discussions about the shapes they are making. You might ask which shapes seem the sturdiest, and see if they have theories as to why. With slightly older kids, you might discuss and classify angles. With third graders, perhaps make the focus more about identifying vertices, edges, and naming the shapes they build. Or you can simply keep the focus on the teamwork aspect - asking the kids how they made collaborative decisions, etc. This would also work as a center activity - you can have a gumdrop-toothpick center for early-finishers, or as a center during math rotations. The Boston Museum of Science "Engineering is Elementary" website has 20 really well planned design-challenge units that fit with a wide range of science content. (www.eie.org/the-20-units) For a bank of similarly themed lessons, you can also check out www.tryengineering.org/lesson.php. But this is really one of those times when you shouldn't over-think things (unlike most of the time when we teach, when planning pays off!) Kids are naturally inquisitive and into creating/building. If you provide the materials and a simple context, they will do the rest, I swear it. If you give it a try, please let me know how it goes. If nothing else, your kiddos are going to have a blast!
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