teacher at Trinity School of Communication Arts &
Technology, New Rochelle, NY.
Young Scientists At Work!
Lesson 1: A Balancing Act
Learning Objectives: The students will understand what the word “balanced” means and be able to use various objects in order to create a stable (balanced) system.
Materials: The book Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully, small balance scales, student journals, teacher made recording sheet, clothespins, different shaped oak-tag cutouts and a variety of small objects such as pattern blocks and beans.
Procedure: The target vocabulary words and pictures (balance, weight, counterweight, stable, unstable, scale) are printed on chart paper and students are asked to speculate about their meanings. They shown the cover of the book and are asked to make observations and inferences about the story’s plot. Using the Think, Pair Share Dimensions of Learning teaching strategy, the children are asked to communicate their guesses to a neighbor, with a few predictions to be shared with the whole class. The story talks about a girl who walks across a clothesline outside her house because she wants to be a wirewalker. After the story is read, the target vocabulary will be defined and discussed. In cooperative groups the students will receive a bag of materials containing different shaped oak-tag cutouts and clothespins, and will be asked to create balanced systems by placing 2 clothespins on each cut out, and balancing them on their fingertips. The students will also record and draw their findings on the teacher made sheet. The lesson will culminate with a whole group discussion about where to put the clothespins in order to create a stable system.
Learning Center Activity: Students that finish early will experiment with balance scales, by placing pattern blocks on one side and beans as the weights on the other. They will discuss, compare and record their findings in their journals.
The online pan balance game from NCTM reinforces the concepts of a balanced, stable system, by encouraging students to manipulate various weighted shapes on a scale. Their balanced combinations are recorded on a sidebar, which makes it easy for them to explain and discuss their reasoning with a partner.
Extension/Homework: Using the vocabulary and concepts gained from the story and the balancing lesson, the students will write a letter to the story’s main character Mirette, explaining to her the best way to balance on the high wire.
Assessment: Walk around the room and take anecdotal notes about the discussions the children are having. Pose specific questions like, “ Where should you put the counterweights to make the triangle balance on its side?” and determine how well the students can explain their answers. Have students draw and record the objects they balanced on the scales in the learning center activity. Lastly, have students print out their work from the online game and use it as a catalyst for writing, utilizing the target vocabulary.
A Balancing Act
Draw and label the materials we have.
Draw different ways that you can make the objects balance.
When something would not balance what did you have to do? Give details.
Use the words weight and counter weight in a sentence. (Hint, remember the job of the clothespins---could they be the counterweights?)
Lesson 2 : Getting Dizzy with Spinners