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Towering science

Ideas and inspiration across the curriculum

We have just completed a successful science week. To alleviate pressure on our superb technical support team, we devised some lessons using the bare minimum of resources. They are adaptable for any class, at any time.

The favourite activity was: "Build a self-standing tower as high as you can out of newspaper, string and Sellotape". We also gave students an hour to use the same materials to: 1. Build a working flagpole. Teams of three students had to build a two-metre pole and hoist a flag (soft material or piece of card). It was a great challenge as students had to think about how to make it free-standing and incorporate a mechanism for hoisting a flag.

2. Build a structure to carry a ball one metre to let it rest in a pre-determined spot marked with an X. To be honest, they found one metre a fairly easy distance to bridge, so to add difficulty try two to three metres and even add a bend or corner to negotiate. Students had to make decisions about whether to use tracks or tunnels, how steep to make them and how to control the speed of the ball.

3. Build a structure to allow a moving ball, from a standing start, to travel the greatest distance. Students were effectively given an area in which to build a ski-jump ramp type of construction. A ball was released from a standing start and, as long as it left the ramp before a start line, the distance the ball travelled was recorded and compared. They had to work as a team to make decisions as to the length and steepness of the ramp and crucially, as the ramp moves to a slight incline, at which point the ball is released.

The activities, which really engaged a group of challenging Year 10s, can be made into competitions and used with groups of any size.

Recently, I had to amalgamate two Year 11 sets while a colleague was absent. Although they were top and bottom sets, I was able to keep all students happy with the flagpole activity. In a wider context you could look at the activities as enterprising, especially if you limit the resources or make students accountable for them in some way. Happy constructing.

Stuart Bennett

Head of Science, The Aveland High School, Lincolnshire

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