Building Bridges

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Building Bridges


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School projects have been around for years and many students actually benefit from hands on experiences while doing these school projects. Students need to learn the hands on aspects of working and not just the mental aspects of learning. School projects help with the physical learning for students to understand those lessons that their teachers are attempting to teach them. Lewis Cass High School is attempting to make the school itself more into a STEM school than just a regular school.


A science STEM class of 7th graders had a project this week where they built bridges. These bridges weren’t regular bridges and the children were not just building these bridges just for the fun of building. Samantha Cooper, a teacher here at Cass, had twists and turns to test her student’s minds and to see what the students could come up with while building these bridges. The twists and turns were that the students were given a budget, limited materials to buy, and a scenario in which their bridges would have to survive a real life incident.


The 7th graders of Lewis Cass High School were given a budget of $50,000 to spend on bridge material. They were given a list of materials to buy from with their budget consisting in the students having to actually add up all their money being spent and plan their building process thoroughly. The materials the students had to choose from were toothpicks, popsicle sticks, plastic straws, 22 gauge wire, dental floss, elmer’s glue, and wood glue. Each of those materials had a price set on them and the students had to pick and choose those materials based on their budgets which can relate to the real world really well.


Adults are forced to stay in their budgets and are forced to plan out what they can fit in those budgets. The sacrifices that adults make can be compared to those sacrifices the students made while building these bridges. If those students have a job in which they actually have to construct a bridge, they are going to have to think about which materials would best fit for the bridge in the scenarios that were given.  


The scenarios included an earthquake, a collision with a car, salt water sustainability, and the ability to have their bridge frozen and thawed without it tumbling apart. The materials in this project had the students thinking about the consequences and what they could do to keep their bridges together and supported. So

With the students budgets, materials, and scenarios, Cooper said, “We are trying to relate to real life by using these types of project.”  Everyone involved in this project for sure saw how it does relate to real life thinking.


While the students had all of those factors to think about, another important factor was issued that was included in building these bridges. The students had to make their structures of the bridges look presentable; Mrs. Cooper said, “No one wants to live near an ugly structure. What’s going to happen to people who are around this? Are they going to want to buy properties around this bridge?” Mrs. Cooper even explained that the bridges that were being testing on collision were supposed to have a gap between the table and the bridge. With these collision tested bridges the majority of them were set high off the ground because that was what was required. The collision that was tested on these bridges is a car being flung into the legs of the bridges by a giant exercise band.


While watching the bridges being tested by the weight of rocks in a bucket, Levi and I noticed that the students who used the wood glue, those bridges held better than those with the Elmer’s glue. Out of the 43 bridges built their were only 12 bridges with the elmer’s glue which is good because the students thought that the wood glue would hold better and they were correct. The project really did use thoughts and planning because some of those bridges did not stand a chance due to using the wrong materials resulting in an example of what it would be like to fail in real life.  


Projects like this bridge project really do teach students to multi-task and to be very careful with their decisions as well as money choices. Even though this experiment was mainly based on science, I believe this project also had the ability to teach about money and life. Many hardships come in life and those hardships with these bridges would be the test and fail motto. The students were very supportive of each other and what each of them had built. They cheered on the strongest bridges to the weakest in hopes that the bridges wouldn’t break. This project taught a good deal of citizenship and teamwork which is what also helps students learn better.


If a student isn’t having fun or being told that they are doing a good job, they aren’t going to want to try and learn anymore. So with a fun and thoughtful project such as this one, students are able to really think about the opportunities to come from this project. Maybe a student loved this project so much and learned certain aspects of it that they want to become an architect when they get older. This project was super interesting and I believe that projects such as this one is what truly teaches students what real life can consist of.

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