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The Maker Series Journey: Fostering Scientific Thinking, Hands-On Skills & Beyond

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

Initiating a journey into the world of science and learning with middle and high school kids is a challenge. These young minds are always eager for something new, exciting, and intellectually stimulating. We as facilitators work to provide them with challenges that not only enhance their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities but also instil empathy, preparing them to address real-world problems.

Our Maker Series, which resumed after a long break, embarked on its inaugural challenge. This series has always been a hit with kids, and they eagerly anticipated its return.This time the challenge was to construct a popsicle bridge, at least 14 inches in length, capable of withstanding a maximum load for at least one minute, all while utilising minimal resources. To equip our young engineers, we provided reading materials about various bridge types the day before the challenge. Armed with this knowledge, each team was given 200 popsicles and glue to bring their design concepts to life. As they navigated the design process, stumbling and improving their plans along the way, they were allotted ample time for construction. The excitement didn't stop once the bridge prototypes were built.

Post-construction, their bridges underwent rigorous evaluation against predetermined criteria, and load tests were conducted to ensure stability. The kids eagerly embarked on the thrilling phase of stress testing their creations. They were eager to witness just how much their bridges could endure and took it upon themselves to explore various household items to serve as testing weights. From 500-gram pasta packets to delicate 10-gram spice packets, they scoured their surroundings for the perfect stress-testing materials.

This phase of the challenge became a captivating competition in itself, as they enthusiastically attempted to outdo each other in demonstrating the strength and stability of their bridge designs. The stress testing, although challenging, brought a sense of accomplishment and pride as they saw their creations withstand the pressure, a testament to their engineering ingenuity and teamwork.

Following this phase, the kids had an individual reflection time, where they had the opportunity to contemplate on their designs and implementations. During this period, they brainstormed ideas for enhancing and refining their creations. This introspective moment allowed each child to consider what worked well and what could be improved, fostering a sense of personal growth and development.

Next, we extended this learning journey by assigning research work on real-world bridges. Kids were provided with bridge choices and given guidelines to kickstart their research efforts. To facilitate their research skills and encourage connections through traditional pen-and-paper methods, they were required to present their findings in a written or drawn format.

Our learners were empowered to uncover fascinating facts and explore the scientific, historical, cultural, and architectural aspects of bridges, thanks to clear guidelines and a relaxed learning environment. They were given sufficient time for research and presentation development, ensuring a pressure-free atmosphere, complemented by sessions dedicated to refining their research skills.

Our young researchers embarked on a global tour, sharing their findings on iconic bridges, such as the Bandra Worli Sea Link in Mumbai, Pamban Bridge in Rameswaram, Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Napier Bridge in Chennai, the ancient Ponte Vecchio in Italy, and many others. Through their work, they illuminated the materials used in construction, earthquake resistance, soil strength considerations, and an array of technical terminologies. As they discussed these technical nuances, it felt as if we were witnessing a summit of architects and engineers, all coming together to discuss the bridges they had created. The kids' sense of ownership was evident as they proudly exclaimed, "My bridge is the second longest, whereas his bridge is the longest of all." This ownership underscores their deep engagement with the bridges they had researched.

It is our absolute pleasure to curate and facilitate these learning experiences that foster scientific thinking, hands-on skills, teamwork, critical reasoning, problem-solving, stepwise thinking, design thinking, and much more. In a world that moves at such a fast pace, we firmly believe that these skills can empower our kids to chart an uncommon path for themselves and become valuable contributors to society at large.


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