September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Ship That Chip: Teaching Engineering by Using Snacks

Posted: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

by Joanne Michael

When a new school year begins, almost every student (and teacher) is excited, motivated, and ready to work hard. Almost as quickly as it began, however, the “newness” of the school year wears off, and the students are in need of something new to recharge them. At the same time, teachers attempting to implement NGSS (even if not in full implementation mode) are getting tired, and may need a pick-me-up of their own. Enter the “Ship the Chip” challenge!

A group’s chip packing- success!  Photo by Jennifer Cheesman

A group’s chip packing- success!
Photo by Jennifer Cheesman

The basic idea is easy. Students work in teams (or can work by themselves, if there are not many students), and are given a single Pringles chip. It is up to them to come up with a way of packing and protecting that chip. The rules can vary – must be at least a certain size, can only weigh so much, can be made with only certain materials; the decision is up to the teacher. The chips containers are then mailed across the country to another teacher in the program, who has sent a parcel of chips to that classroom. Ideally, each package is mailed separately – otherwise, packages may protect each other, and that would miss the point. Then the fun begins!

Another successful chip packing ideas.

Another successful chip packing idea.
Photo by Jennifer Cheesman

The classrooms can meet online via Skype, and watch each other open their packages to see if the chips have survived without cracks or being broken altogether. If the timing isn’t right between time zones and classroom schedules, students can make videos of them opening the chips, and the teacher can e-mail it to their class, or share it on a shared Google file. If nothing else, the teacher can take pictures of the parcels upon delivery (to show how the package fared during its’ travels), and a picture of the chip to mail to the other classroom.

Simple idea, but it covers so many different engineering and cross-curriculum standards, regardless of the grade level. If the class does not know where the other classroom is located, they could begin with a “mystery Skype” to get to know where the classroom is, gaining a geography lesson in the entire experience. If a teacher wants to make more of an engineering process, they can require that the parcel weigh a precise amount, including the mass of the chip and the stamps (makes it easier on the cost of shipping as well!). Possibilities are endless.

Is this expensive? Possibly, but it doesn’t have to be. With groups of four students, assuming a class of 32 students, there would only be eight packages – a total of maybe $20 for shipping. Students can bring in their own packing supplies from home to help out in cost. If that is still too much, and you teach in a rather large district, why not take advantage of inter-district mail? Possibly with a package of chips for your district mail carrier as a thank you for supporting this endeavor.

Interested in doing this with your students? There are people planning and organizing “Ship the Chip” groups all over the country – a simple Google search can find groups, lesson ideas, videos of successful (and unsuccessful) packages, and inspiration if you feel like doing this yourself. Good luck!

Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified, and is CSTA’s Intermediate (grade 3-5) Director.

Written by Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified and is a CSTA member.

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Cal

This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.