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Science skills in motion

  • Alden Black Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Mason Elementary School Engineering Adventures club, led by Colleen Ringer, makes recycled race cars on Oct. 25, 2016. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Alden Black Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Mason Elementary School Engineering Adventures club makes recycled race cars on Oct. 25, 2016. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Ayla Tibbetts Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Mason Elementary School Engineering Adventures club, led by Colleen Ringer, makes recycled race cars on Oct. 25, 2016. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Above: Alden Black makes a race car from recycled materials during Engineering Adventures, and after-school program that focuses on problem solving and science skills. Below left: Cars were made out of CDs and cardboard. Bottom left: Westin Arrasmith and Ayla Tibbetts work together on a project. Staff photoS by Brandon Latham

  • Mason Elementary School Engineering Adventures, left to right: Colleen Ringer, Molly Olson, Alexis Morales, Ayla Tibbetts, Evan Aho, Alden Black, Westin Arrasmith, Adam Pepin, Troy Williams, Aeryn Cross, Jewel Jones and Laura Hooper Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Ayla Tibbetts and Westin Arrasmith Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Jewel Jones and Colleen Ringer Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Evan Aho Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Adam Pepin Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Westin Arrasmith and Ayla Tibbetts Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Mason Elementary School Engineering Adventures club makes recycled race cars on Oct. 25, 2016. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Alden Black, Evan Aho, Alexis Morales and Adam Pepin Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Westin Arrasmith, Troy Williams and Alden Black Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, November 07, 2016 5:5PM

Colleen Ringer describes herself as “an arts person.” But when the third-grade teacher looked at the extracurricular activities offered at Mason Elementary School, she saw a need for more sciences.

“I was trying to find something new to do,” Ringer said. “We had all this arts, like the gardening club and the band, and not any science.”

What she started was Engineering Adventures, an after-school program where once a week she has led a group of 10 fourth and fifth-grade students interested in learning to apply what they learn in science class.

The program is free and available online, and scripted for easy use. Ringer went to a two-day educator training session in Boston and acquired the curriculum with the support of the district.

The students are using recycled items – tissue boxes, plastic bags, CDs, and more – to build cars that can roll over obstacles.

Each lesson is tied to multicultural studies, Ringer said, and this one incorporates lessons about automobiles in Senegal, a country of Africa’s west coast.

On the last day, they will see whose car rolls furthest down a ramp in the school. Ringer says she and Laura Hooper, MES’s fourth-grade teacher and recycling leader, try to be hands-off and let the students solve problems on their own.

“Each week they build upon something more,” she said. “It’s not too challenging but they’re getting lots of skills.”

Ringer added, “The most important is getting them into the engineering process, and that kind of thinking; not just jumping into things but pre-planning.”

The students are learning more than they realize.

One, Westin Arrasmith, said he considered building a car with a smaller car on top, which would keep moving after the base stopped and earn the team extra distance.

Fifth-grader Troy Williams described why his group chose not to put a plastic bag on their vehicle, saying, “We thought that would slow it down, because, you know, physics.”

They don’t realize they’re describing inertia – that Arrasmith’s car in motion would remain in motion – and drag – that the backward force of air into the bag would fight against the car’s forward movement.

But they are, and the students’ cars demonstrate scientific learning well beyond their grade level.

 

Brandon Latham can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or blatham@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @blathamMLT.