The 5th graders at Hopkins school recently received a visit from Tom Wahle, a former technology education teacher, who for the past 15 years, has toured schools in the New England area with his Techsploration presentation. The presentation gave the students chance to learn about the design principles behind support structures, such as bridges. Wahle broke up the lesson into two parts, a show that relied heavily on audience participation in which he taught the students about different types of bridges, and a workshop in which each individual class built scaled down models of the bridges that they had learned about at the show.
The final task at the workshop allowed the students to think creatively. Using just the pieces from the kit used to make the bridges, the students worked in teams to see who could build the tallest free-standing structure. Many of the towers the students built wound up being taller than the students themselves, and some of them were even taller than Wahle.
Wahle believes that his hands on method to teaching science principles has several advantages over more traditional teaching methods.
During his presentation, Wahle pointed out many examples of where such structures exist in the world around them.
Fifth grade teacher Shelly Moran encouraged the students to utilize the information Wahle taught them to prepare for Eggstravaganza, an annual Hopkins event held later in the school year, in which the students attempt to build a support structure that can keep an egg intact when it is dropped from a elevated height .
Both she and Wahle agree that making such real life connections are an important way for students to fully absorb the topics that they learn about in school. Ultimately, Wahle believes the secret to his success involves creating a balance between having fun and learning.
Besides the workshop on structures that was presented at Hopkins, Wahle offers workshops on a variety of other science and technology topics such as simple machines, weather, and electricity. For more information, visit the Techsploration website