Third Graders Find a Bridge To Learning

A solid lesson plan starts with a good base. Elizabeth Grumbach, Lower School science teacher, is exploring a popular subject with third grade: bridges. Students have memories of crossing interesting bridges while traveling, and they use their own experiences to help dissect bridge construction in detail; it’s part of their study of civil engineering, design and technology around us.

Each bridge type has unique attributes, but at the core are several principles: bridges need to be stable and strong – and two different classroom chairs make an ideal tool to demonstrate the properties of strength and stability. The attentive students clamor to climb up and answer Elizabeth’s questions.

“Can something be strong but not stable?” Elizabeth asks. “Can something be stable but not strong?” She finds ready test subjects willing to explore the intersection of these properties. The segment on types and parts of bridges is especially lively. One student named Mikey acts out his answer, rearranging the chairs to demonstrate his reasoning.

As they work through every type of bridge in the presentation – suspension bridges, beam bridge, truss bridge, arch bridge – more students take turns coming to the screen to point out or identify different design elements and the reason they are important.

Once the presentation is complete, the students fill out details in their science workbooks, underscoring what’s been learned.

Soon these third graders will work in Moses Brown’s maker space, the Y-Lab, to begin planning the design of their own bridges.