It is amazing the ingenuity that comes with impatience. Today my new class was measuring permeability of sand, soil, and gravel. While measuring the permeability of sand, one group grew impatient after 8 minutes of holding their water-filled sand over a beaker and waiting for the water to travel through the medium. So they built the contraption above and started working on questions in their lab while waiting. When they did this, I decided to grab the teachable moment while it was there.
I drew everyone’s attention to the contraption. I asked the group to explain why they made the cup holder. They responded because they were getting tired of holding the cup while it drained. So I pointed out the scientific and engineering practices they engaged in; defining a problem and designing a solution. I complimented them on their creativity, while the rest of the class built the same contraption so they could work on the questions in their lab.
The building of the contraption reminded me of the importance of engaging students in the practices of science to create a deeper understanding of content. Although building the contraption was not originally a part of the lab, nor did it increase the understanding of permeability, it did engage the students in the scientific and engineering practices. This in turn involved the students in the design of their own learning, creating a more in-depth understanding.