I usually write about the new things that I am trying in my classes, but I realized this week that some of my “old” lessons are worth sharing. In my 6th grade technology class I have always taught the paper platform lesson. The source of this comes from my mentor technology teachers Larson and Roode, a true master of teaching kids to come up with creative solutions.
The paper platform project challenges students to build a three inch tall platform that can hold as many pennies as possible. The beauty of the challenge is that it is cheap and simple, yet not easy. I do not give students hints or help but ask lots of questions about their practice models. I often see all A students frustrated by this project because I will not help them solve it. I also feel it validates some students hands on skills that are often undervalued in school, but are important in the real world.
I have had lots of very different solutions over the years. The current world record is over 1500 pennies and the students get their names posted on my “Wall of Fame.” What lesson do you use to teach problem solving?