What do you get when you combine 80 teenage homeschoolers from Southern Idaho and Eastern Oregon, 30 two-liter bottles of pop, and an eagerness to learn? You get inquiry in motion!
The Homeschool Institute of Science was honored to deliver one of several Teen Workshops at the 2015 CHOIS Convention in Nampa, Idaho. Each of the two teams spent four hours learning about experiment design, data collection, the engineering design process, team-work, and more. How in the world did we pack this all in you may ask?
ANSWER: HANDS-ON INQUIRY-BASED LEARNING
Activity 1: In teams of 2-3 design the best paper airplane in the world.
This took a little coaching for some students. It’s important to let them struggle. “What does he mean best? I guess I’ll just start making planes. How do I determine if mine is best?”
Eventually I visited with each team and by asking direct questions (sometimes many questions, sometimes just one or two) the students began to see that they needed to first and foremost define “best” for themselves. This forced them to think about the purpose of their plane. I helped them to imagine begin given this task by the CEO of Boeing. What should the best plane be capable of doing?
The next piece of the puzzle was “How do I determine if our plane or any plane meets our new definition for best?” So if our plane needs to fly long distances, measure distance. If it needs to fly high, measure height. If needs to be very stable, come up with a way to measure stability. We talked about the importance of quantifying our measurements, which is easy with distance and speed but much more difficult with stability, strength, or weirdness. Yes one team decided the “best” plane = the weirdest plane! Hey it’s their definition – as long as they explained it well during their final presentation then it was fine by me.
You see, science isn’t about the 7 steps of the method. It’s about fearlessly pursuing knowledge. It’s about knowing where you can be creative and remembering your constraints. In the end the teams designed paper airplanes, collected data to measure the variables they determined to be critical, and they presented their findings in front of the group and launched their planes for the group. Many of the groups, when asked, said that their plane was not the best. And they said it joyfully! This does not mean that they were underachieving or displaying false humility. It means they had hunkered down and defined “best” and had effectively tested their paper airplanes and determined that it did not meet their standards.
Well done, students!
I left feeling greatly encouraged by the number of teens who were engaged and thinking critically and by their graciousness and joyfulness during our time together. These students left with an increased knowledge and desire to glorify God through scientific endeavor and through an increased appreciation of His remarkably complex and wonderful provision
As it says in Colossians 3:1-2, If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. These verses remind us of the purpose of all our endeavors including endeavor in the STEM disciplines. Amen!
Stay tuned for Activity #2 . . .