The nuts and bolts of connecting the science to solar oven design

September 22, 2015 at 2:03 PM Leave a comment

Engineering is the appliance of scientific ideas to solve problems for people, basically. So it includes a sort of enlightened tinkering. Last week, I needed to up the level of science talk between students. This is how I tried to get this going with a little co-construction and direct instruction.

First we figured out how to do a ‘cross sectional diagram’ with kids doing their best on the big white boards. You would be amazed at how hard a skill this is for most 7th graders: There’s the kit solar oven and their diagrams pre-instruction. Shouldn’t laugh, but 🙂


Pre instruction diagrams of the kit solar oven

IMG_2797 (1)

The solar oven kit from Sun Spot


More student pre-instruction diagrams of the Sun Spot solar oven

Then modeled it on the board. Asked them to say what happened at each place to their neighbor, and had them just flat out copy it. Btw, cool foreshadowing of the greenhouse effect here for the Take Action Project and climate change later in the year.

IMG_2798 (1)

Cross sectional, ray diagram showing how the Sun Spot solar oven works.

They got their own solar oven out and did a cross section of their own oven. Then they could decide on changes by using the science to explain their ideas – tinkering with thinking.

This time, I’m more careful to really circulate, look at their journals and give individual coaching. I did hear more science talk between students today compared to last week.

IMG_0009 How do you get your students to talk science to solve design challenges? Share what’s worked (or what’s not) below!


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PBL: From Tinkering to Thinking Plant 2 Trees Project Overview and Resources NSTA Oct.2015

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