March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

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, former CSTA Upper Elementary director, and is a current CSTA member.

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Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.

For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Marian Murphy-Shaw

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Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.