All Saints students close year with cross-grade collaboration
By David Karas | Correspondent
Fifth and eighth grade students in All Saints Regional Catholic School, Manahawkin, marked the end of the school year with a collaboration that traversed curricula as much as it did the ages of its participants.
With the support of their respective course instructors, fifth grade students researched, designed and constructed bridges using popsicle sticks, toothpicks and glue, while their eighth-grade counterparts used Lego EV3 software to program robots to drive over those bridges.
The project was launched in mid-May and involved some 40 fifth-grade students who created 20 bridges. At the same time, 25 eighth-graders worked in groups to programs the robots they used iPads to control – much like they would operate remote-controlled cars.
But more than just a glorified game for the students to close out another year of classes, the collaboration touched on lessons learned throughout the preceding months – and challenged the pupils to apply some of the things they had covered in classes.
The fifth-grade students focused their attention on physics, forces and motion, not to mention the property of matter and changing properties of energy. The youngsters were provided the weight, length and height specifications of each robot, and were encouraged to deploy their creative energies while constructing bridges that could support the robotic crossers.
“I learned how to engineer and construct a bridge out of limited resources,” remarked fifth-grade student Juliana Gentile.
Meanwhile, Gentile’s older classmates and project collaborators were called to rely on their background in physics, chemistry and engineering as they worked to program their robots to perform specified tasks – like grabbing items, spinning and pushing.
Their efforts culminated June 14 as they brought the fruits of their labor together for the final test – and, according to eighth-grade science teacher James Carr and fifth-grade science teacher Barbara Panagis, the result was wonderful.
“I think the eighth graders were surprised that the fifth graders were able to construct bridges that would support the weight of the robots,” said Carr, who added that his students helped to guide their younger counterparts through the process.
Both Gentile and one of her fellow fifth graders, Josh Casio, said that they would “spend more time on research and design of the bridge” if they did the project again.
“I would make barriers higher along the sides of the bridge,” said Casio, reflecting on what they could improve on in the future. “I would add thicker supports underneath the bridge.”
The teachers shared their optimism that the project created various learning moments for the students, relying both on course material from the year as well as the arts of collaboration, research and design.
“One thing I definitely will express in future years is research, research, research,” said Panagis.