With upbeat pop songs playing in the background, Elizabeth Hooke’s sixth graders worked in small clusters on balsa wood gliders. Some were meticulously coloring designs, while others, fingers sticky with glue, were piecing their planes together. The assignment was a two-week Project Lead the Way challenge that asked students to create a plane that could fly for a minimum of five seconds.
To get there, students researched Newton’s Laws and how airplanes fly, created virtual models of their gliders, virtually raced against other students, and finally printed specs and built gliders out of balsa wood.
“I taught this last year as part of an elective,” said Hooke. “This year, the other two sixth grade teachers also have their Project Lead the Way training, so the whole grade is doing it now.”
Hooke’s class seemed to thoroughly enjoy the hands-on project.
“I like it. It’s fun,” said Alessia Casale. “It’s also really hard because you have to figure out the perfect way to make the plane. If not, it won’t fly as well.”
“It’s also hard to figure out a way to design the plane so that it doesn’t just drop straight down,” added Neha Kakkanattu. “It has to actually fly. That was a little bit hard for me.”
The assignment was an exercise in critical thinking and perseverance, two of the district’s Strategic Coherence Plan skills.
“If you fix one thing, five other things go down,” Courtney Pease explained. Students were required to constantly test and reassess their plans until they got the results they were looking for — a life skill that is sure to come in handy as they grow older.