We began by reading the book, Too Many Pumpkins, by Linda White. In this story, a giant pumpkin falls off the back of an overloaded truck into Rebecca Estelle's yard, scattering seeds everywhere. To her surprise, the following autumn Rebecca's yard is filled with beautiful big orange pumpkins. Initially she overwhelmed with this bumper crop, unsure of what to do with this surplus of pumpkins. She eventually decides to bake...and bake...and bake, making pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin pies, in addition to carving many jack-o-lanterns to share with her entire community in a special party at her house on the edge of the village.
After we finished reading the story the kids were introduced to "the problem". I explained to the children that Rebecca Estelle's celebration was such a success that the people of the village had requested that it become an annual event. The problem was the bridge that connected Rebecca Estelle house to the village needed to be replaced in order to support all the pumpkins needed for the celebration.
Working with a partner, the kids were given 30 popsicle sticks and 3 feet of tape. Using only these materials, they needed to design a bridge that would span across two desks that were pulled 1 foot apart. We discussed how engineer scientists begin solving a problem by discussing their ideas with others (a partner), then plan their design (sketching the plan on paper). Next, the kids were given time to create/built their design. The kids quickly learned that being flexible in their thinking was key in tackling this challenge. I was thrilled to see the kids working together, completely engaged in the task at hand.
Once construction was complete, we tested our designs by loading each bridge with mini pumpkins. We concluded this lesson by discussing why some bridges held more pumpkins than others. We "pushed our thinking" by looking carefully at the structure of the bridges that were able to hold many pumpkins and discussed what was unique about these designs.
Be sure to ask your child about the bridge they created as they became a second grade engineer.