February 13, 2014
My mother teaches 5th grade in a public school in Florida. When she suggested this activity for our MAKER class I was a bit skeptical. I expected a rigid lesson plan with worksheets and achievable learning objectives. While these did exist to some degree I found the actual activity itself to be an excellent platform for creative divergences. The basic materials provided enough of an objective without instructing a right or wrong way of achieving it.
The object of the lunar lander activity is to construct a vehicle that when dropped from a certain height, can land without the astronauts being propelled from the cockpit. The cockpit was a small 1-2 oz. plastic cup and it was taped to a 10 cm piece of cardboard. The "astronauts" were pencil erasers. That's it. The rest was up to their imagination.
I brought some straws, paper, and duct tape to aid in construction, and opened up the supply closet if they needed anything else. With the goal defined, they set out to solve the problem. Some used paper and pencil to sketch their ideas, others jumped right into constructing, while others waited and watched to see what worked and what didn't from their peers' attempts. In the end, everyone was able to create a lander that safely brought their astronauts to land. But the best part was the unique and specialized solutions created by each young person. Something that may have gone missing if I instructed a right and/or wrong way of completing the assignment.