It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s 1st Graders’ Flying Cars!

Lower School · December 11, 2021

The 1st Graders stepped into the role of urban planners, artists, and scientists during their unit of inquiry on transportation. For this unit, students investigate how people are connected through the ways they travel, making observations about the various modes of transportation found in the world around them.

In Science, students conducted a series of two-week experiments involving ramps, boats, and bee-bots. Students compared different ramps to measure how ramp textures and steepness impacted how far toy cars rolled off of them, introducing the concepts of friction, angles, and incline. They worked in groups to create and test out tin foil boats. Enthusiasm and excitement could be heard in the hallways as students hovered around their water stations, eagerly awaiting to see how many pennies their boats could hold. As an introduction to robotics, students also explored directional language and early programming with bee-bots. They planned out the bot’s route around cups and squares that represented places around the neighborhood. For each project, play and inquiry shaped students’ exploration. 

As the culminating science project for the unit, 1st Graders built wind-powered car models. Students followed a procedure to design their own cars with wooden wheels, axles made from straws and pipe-cleaners, and a cardboard base.

 Once their cars were constructed, students added a twist–sails!

 

Students made predictions about which among three sails of different shapes and sizes would allow the car to roll the farthest. Some students thought a particular sail would allow the car to go the farthest because it had the largest surface area, whereas others thought a different sail would allow the car to go farther because of its intricate design. The students practiced explaining their predictions to their classmates. Classes then had several wind stations powered by fans set up for students to experiment and discover the results. 

Science experiments aren’t just about the scientific phenomenons at play; these experiments are also designed to instill curiosity and joy of learning and reinforce the importance of cooperation and exploration throughout the process. Students are able to deepen their ability to collaborate and understand their responsibility in taking turns and helping each other.  

“During this unit, we started each science class with a question like, ‘which ramp will allow the car to roll the farthest?’ The 1st Graders got into the practice of making a prediction before they experimented. Along with learning more about how objects move, they also learned that scientists don’t always make accurate predictions.” – Elizabeth Boyd, Lower School Science Teacher

 

Students also explored the interdisciplinary nature of science while leading their own investigations about transportation. In Art class, students created art that replicated how seeds transport themselves. Students observed different seeds found in nature and made seed pods out of yarn, toothpicks, and more. Using their imagination, they developed stories about how their seeds were transported. Air, water, animals, or simply gravity all respond to a seed design and contribute to seeds transportation and dispersion. It’s amazing to discover the flawless ways that nature operates! The 1st Graders observed the texture and structure of seeds, watched them move and used their imagination to create their own oversized seeds. 

In their target language homeroom, students reflected on how they all have different ways of getting to school. Students also explored the form and function of different modes of transport and the maps we use to travel by creating their own subway maps and exploring 3-D maps of Mexico, Argentina, and New York City.

 

To conclude their unit, 1st Graders took a field trip to the bicycle shop on Court Street to learn more about a mode of transportation that connects many people in their local community. They spoke with Shelly at the store, who shared information about the different types of bikes and the shop’s history. Students learned about truing stands, wheel alignment, gears, and more; they were especially fascinated by the speedometers and bells as these items were two of the most exciting hits! Shelly shared that there is a lot more science in bicycles than one might initially think.

With the notion that science is everywhere, students are excited for what’s next – exploring light and sound in their unit of inquiry on imagination.