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Start Your Engine: Third graders test force, motion at Donald Derby

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lisd_donald_derbyDonald Elementary 3rd graders recently participated in the inaugural Donald Derby – a project-based learning (PBL) activity to display and learn about force and motion. The main goal of the PBL was to determine how force, motion and mass could affect an object.

But first, a little research in all subject areas. In science, students were introduced to the concept of force and motion per Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Then, students used reading strategies to read and formulate questions about force, motion and electric cars. For writing, students described the steps of testing force and motion with their Lego-made cars and how they believed it would play out. Then, students held a trial experiment using paper balls to simulate a car going down a ramp. In math, students measured distances and created spreadsheets to calculate the average travel distance.

Then came Derby Day, when students teamed up in groups to channel their inner NASCAR, as well as critical thinking skills to draw conclusions on how they could alter their cars to make them travel further distances. After a test run, many groups changed the shape and weight of their cars. They noticed quickly that they needed more weight on the front of the car and less weight on the top of the car.

“Overall, I hope students take away that any type of force on an object will affect its motion,” 3rd grade teacher Krissy Stoner said. “Teamwork, collaboration and creativity were stressed throughout the entire PBL.”

It was evident students grasped the entire concept from the PBL.

“I learned that adding more weight to the front of my car made it travel farther because gravity was pulling it down,” 3rd grader Ryan Stoner said. “I also learned my car went further on a smooth surface in the cafeteria because there was less friction than on the carpet.”

To culminate the project, students created iMovie presentations to showcase their experience throughout the entire PBL.

“I felt like this PBL gave students an opportunity to self discover and really think a layer deeper than they have ever thought before,” Stoner said. “I really enjoyed it and know that next year when we do it, it will be even better!”

Take your pit stop to see more pictures from Donald’s first Derby Day located on their Facebook page here.

Elizabeth Haas is part of the public relations team with the Lewisville Independent School District.

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