“From a teacher’s perspective, I’m always amazed at the vast variety of catapult designs I receive,” says Kyle Wallace, sixth grade science and math teacher at Twin Fall Middle School in North Bend.
Last month, Wallace saw his students demonstrate their knowledge, putting the scientific method to use when they made working catapults for a school assignment.
At Twin Falls, all sixth grade students were challenged to create a catapult of their own design. Some students partnered up, others completed the challenge individually. Every student was given a week to complete the catapult and bring it to school to be tested
Students have been learning the steps of the scientific method since the start of the year. They did four separate in-class experiments while learning and incorporating the steps of the investigation and inquity to be applied during these experiments. The catapult challenge served as the final assessment.
Some catapults were as small as a plastic spoon strapped to two Coke bottles. Some were bigger than a grown man — powered by garage door springs, or a set of skis fastened to planks.
“Every year, there are new designs that I never would have thought of or seen before,” writes Wallace. “I have been doing this for four years now but this was the first year that all the sixth grade student body completed the challenge. It filled the building with a sense of excitement and pride when students walked down the hallways with them, and tested them, and gathered their data. I keep records on distance and hang time, as well.”
The project encourages family involvement. Although Wallace discourages parent take-over of the projects, he likes to see their assistance with the potentially dangerous work such as cutting, drilling and use of power tools.
A lot of parents appreciate this activity, says Wallace, because it gives them a chance to do something fun and interesting with their children, a bonding moment.
“Sometimes parents are just as excited to see the catapult launched as the students!” he wrote. “I usually have several parents come during launching time to enjoy the experience with their child.”