St. Paul’s Lutheran School has been working with a new curriculum called Project Lead the Way as a way to meet state requirements for science education.
Project Lead the Way is a science program from children in grades K-12 to get hands-on experience with science. St. Paul’s recently used a project from the program in its fourth-grade classrooms. Students were taught about simple machines and even built some of their own to complete the project.
“They had to draw all the six kinds of simple machines and then label them,” said St. Paul’s principal, Amy Duever. “Then they built an incline plane, a pulley and a lever..."
The students use VEX IQ kits to make their machines in class. VEX IQ is a STEM education company that promotes the use of science and robotics in the classroom. The kits, which include building materials, come with the curriculum, according to Duever, but the school added more so they can have one kit per 2 to 3 children.
“We don’t want someone sitting out in the background, so we made sure we had enough,” Duever said.
Next in the curriculum, the students were prompted to think of a problem they have had and build a machine to fix it.
For example, what if you want a bite to eat, but don't want to get out of bed? Some tried to tackle that problem through their machines.
"So there were lots of them building wheels and axles to pull things to them,” Duever said.
Then there was a magnet activity before they were prompted with another problem. This time they were given a problem and every group had to think of a way to build a machine to fix it.
The children were told they were at a zoo and a tiger had fallen into a pit. The children then had to build a complex machine to get the tiger safely out of the pit with their kits.
The students said they had fun with the project. Some even named the tiger they were trying to rescue before showing off their machines.
“I think my favorite part was trying to lift the tiger out of the moat,” fourth-grader Ethan said.
The school is excited to be using Project Lead the Way, Duever said, and hopes in the future to get all of the teachers trained so they can teach with the curriculum.
There are many other activities the students can do using Project Lead the Way. Duever said they also ordered VEX IQ kits for a robotics project to do in the near future. There are also engineering, computer science and medical science projects students can do.
According to Duever, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers scholarships to students who continue using Project Lead the Way throughout their schooling.
“Education is kind of shifting away from cramming your heads full of facts to teaching you how to learn and how to find information,” Duever said. "This way, they have to find information for simple machines; they have to do research to use machines so that they can figure out how to solve a problem."