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Nicole Riley

The Newton Scooter Project is the most comprehensive, demanding project of the year for 8th-grade students in Science.

The Newton Scooter Project is the most comprehensive, demanding project of the year for 8th-grade students in Science. While designing and building a small car powered by a mousetrap, balloon, or rubber band might not sound challenging, the range of skills needed to successfully complete this project are varied and intense. Inquiry and resilience are the primary skills required. Students must not only research the design of their scooter, they must also test, analyze problems, retest, redesign, and rebuild their scooters over and over. This iterative process demands careful attention to not just the content of the project (Newton’s Laws of Motion and how they govern the scooter) but numerous ATL’s (approaches to learning) that will serve them in every situation regardless of content. ATL’s such as time management, critical & creative thinking, reflection, and transfer are all necessary to get their scooters to move successfully down the 8 meter course, as the final successful design of a student’s scooter may be miles away from what they initially thought would be the “best” design. During this process breakdowns occur, “failures” abound, frustrations overflow, and resilience and perseverance are the only things that can save their project. It is that persistence that is the true goal of this project. More than once a student has been on their knees at the starting line of the course close to tears, or actually sobbing, because their scooter didn’t move off the line, while a week later they are jumping for joy, screaming because they “finally figured it out” and their scooter made it out the end of the 8 meter course. Even better are those times I’ve seen classmates literally pick those students up off their knees and recruit the whole class to help that student rethink their scooter because “we need our whole team to get 8 meters”. This is truly a magical, transformational experience for both me and the students.

  • Academic
  • IB

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