by James Wampler
(Shelbyville, Ky. USA)
As said before, we really had to cram some things in to make the whole operation work last week, but we had our culminating activity with students baking smores on Friday.
I could not have had better weather. It was 70 and sunny all day! Students were able to come make revisions to their designs during the first three blocks of the day, and then we had our "Solar Field Day" during the last three blocks.
For those looking to do this in large groups, a mega-phone would be a wise investment. Even with chaperones and good crowd control, it was hard to address 300 8th graders once outside. Sound isn't retained like it would be in a gym :)
I was pleased with the designs I saw, especially with a few that I observed coming from the students of the other 8th grade science teacher.
Included are a few pictures of the more interesting designs.
Things I would change for next year:
1.) I would like to begin this earlier in the year (say...after spring break) so that I can cherry-pick the weather.
2.) I would have a sheet made with design criteria for chaperones to discuss with the students. Luckily, I had discussed our project at length with the 8th grade teachers (especially from my team) but some of the teachers on the other team were (understandbly) less informed.
3.) We ran out of water. I had 10 gallons...and I knew that was skimping, but I would only carry so much. I would get a second water jug so that thirsty students wouldn't be clumped around one water dispenser. Crowds builds novelty, and 8th grade students tend to congregate where there are crowds, whether or not there is anything actually going on in said area.
4.) I'd like to see if I can get my hands on a second canopy for students that need to get out of the sun. We had one, but another would be nice, as it became somewhat cramped.
5.) I'd like to reach out sooner for parents to donate materials. With this occurring at the end of the year, lots of grades, quizzes, tests and activities had to be in place, which drained free time. I was not able to put together a materials list for parents until the very end. I bought a lot of smore materials to make up the difference. I would also like for parents to be a part of the activity. We weren't sure how the weather was going to hold up, so I didn't reach out this year.
6.) I am considering having students ONLY build panel designs next year. This way storage is not as big of a hindrance. Finding storage in the school for solar cookers for 300 students was a decent undertaking. We found places for them, but I'd like for students to be able to unfold them and store them compactly on the sides of the room or in a closet.
7.) I would like to have a video booth/area where students can record their thoughts and plans for their next design. I had a student tell me this morning that he intends to build something like GoSun's design and he was telling me why...and I wish I could have captured his enthusiasm for next year's students.
8.) Music. Any time where large groups of people are outdoors, it would be nice to have music going. We thought we might be able to use the football field's speakers, but were not able to get access. I was able to make a contact with another individual in the school system who DJ's parties that might be able to be convinced to bring in his gear :)
9.) Student assessment of other student projects - - One of the things I saw happening that I encouraged in the design phase (but didn't build into the final day phase) was for students to look at design features from other groups and ask questions about why that group designed things the way they did. They did this on their own during our final day, but I would like to create a sheet to put on a clipboard where they could interview other groups.
10.)Connection to the greater community. One of the plans for this year that fell through - - that I would really like to make sure is a part of next year's plans is connecting them towards other students and adults who are already working with Solar. This project kindled a fire of interest, but I did not have anything in place to continue fanning the flames. I had planned to connect my students to a group in Kathmandu, but the earthquake occurred. I also made contacts with SolSource and GoSun who offered to speak to my students but I was unable to find a time where they could talk to more than one class (planning for speakers takes a lot of time - if the speaker doesn't show or has a connection problem, you need a backup. Also, most speakers won't want to donate an entire school day towards talking with students, so you need to make 5 or 6 different appointments)
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