We began the lesson by reading the book, Pilgrims of Plymouth, by Susan B. Goodman. This led to a fabulous discussion about Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, Native Americans, and the Mayflower. We discussed the types of provisions the Pilgrims may have brought along on the Mayflower. The kids suggested items such as tools for cooking (iron pot, pans, utensils), tools for gardening and building (saw, axe, hammer, shovel), clothing and food and water.
This was a wonderful lead into "the problem" the children would be charged with solving. I told the kids they were going to become boat builders, working to build The Mayflower III (they learned that the Mayflower II already exists at Plimoth Plantation in MA). They would need to work with a partner using the provided materials to build a strong, sturdy boat that could hold lots of cargo (provisions). Once construction was complete, each partnership would test their boat's strength by floating it in a tub of water and loading cargo bit by bit (pennies).
The kids were given the following materials and 30 minutes to construct their Mayflower III.
Materials: 10 Wikki Stix, 10 Popsicle Sticks, 5 Post It Notes, 5 Toothpicks, 5 Beads,
1 Piece of Tin Foil
We concluded this lesson by discussing why some boats held more pennies than others. We "pushed our thinking" by looking carefully at the structure of the boats that were able to hold many pennies and discussed what was unique about these designs.
Be sure to ask your child about the Mayflower they created as they became a second grade engineer.
Step One: Imagining, Discussing, and Planning
Step Two: Sketching the Design
Step 3: Building, Building, Building!
Step 4: Testing the Design