With the onset of hurricanes Maria, Irma, Jose, and Harvey in the tropical climate zones, third graders started out the year with many questions regarding hurricanes and their effect. After a visit from local meteorologist, Jason Handman, we discovered that there was more to weather and climate than we thought! Following Hurricane Maria, we skyped with a Floridian who has family in Puerto Rico. She spoke of the devastation her family experienced due to extreme flooding. Students were interested in how to lessen the effects of extreme weather.
As a result, we decided to research, design, and build structures that can withstand extreme flooding. Students learned about Practical Action homes in Bangladesh, researched structural designs, and created models of their own.
To start, students were given a budget of $250 to buy supplies. They drew a design of their model, then bought supplies using fake money. Students used blocks for bricks, foil for corrugated iron, popsicle sticks for wood, and pieces of plastic for glass. Next, students met with real engineers to discuss and revise their models. After many drafts and revisions, students built the final product. During interviews with their partners, students described how they made their home and explained the decisions and revisions they made in the building process.
Finally, during Exhibition Night, a time where family members come to see the final project, students flooded their own homes using super soakers and buckets. We were able to see how their homes withstood the flood and discuss revisions they would make in the future.