We initially gave students a very vague challenge criteria, "You are going to work on building a structure. You will be given 100 index cards, 1 clipboard, and 1 foot of masking tape." We did this intentionally to encourage the students to ask questions about the project. They all wrote at least one question on their graphic organizer and we answered them as a whole class. This worked out really well, because instead of us explicitly telling them the "challenge rules", students felt ownership over there questions and discoveries.
One observation we made was that most of the groups of 4 students worked really well together, but with our groups of 5, someone always seemed to be not as involved. So when making groups, 3 or 4 students seems to be ideal. We were also talking about the fact that before group work, students would probably benefit from a mini-lesson on collaboration. Amanda did an awesome job talking to her students about compromising and complimenting. We also talked about the importance of everyone having a chance to share and everyone having a job.
At the end, we tested the structures with the "Teacher Earthquake", also known as a shaking iPad cart! We also tested for the height requirement of 1 foot. Students were in charge of transporting their structures to the earthquake zone; the clipboards worked really well for this!
In the end, two out of the six structures met the height requirement and survived the teacher earthquake. We then had students reflect on how they would improve on the next STEAM Challenge. We encouraged them to think about not only how they might improve a structure, but how they might improve with collaboration and communication as well. They all wrote at least 1 sentence about this on their graphic organizer. Amanda then had them take the organizer home, to write a blog post on their experience for homework.
In the end, the 5th graders said that they thought the challenge was challenging and a lot of fun. I felt that it was a great learning experience for me as well! Thank you Amanda and Room 28 for inviting me to embark on this educational earthquake challenge!