I have taught the following lesson before during the school year and it works wonderfully. It cost me about 20 dollars total for all of the materials but is totally worth it to not have to talk the whole time and provide them with a platform for self teaching :)
Here is my lesson in Physics and how to make it enriching to Middle School students
Engineering Model Cars
1. Different types of round candies (minimum of 2 kinds. I used 4)- Enough for each group to have 4 plus some extras (for 40 kids I bought 7 bags with about 20 in each bag so I would have plenty). Make sure at least one kind has a hole in the middle such as a hard life saver.
2. Lots of Rubber-bands
4. Glue (I had Elmer's and Super glue)
6. Popsicle sticks
7. A ramp (I just used a long rectangular box
8. Measuring tape
9. Balloons (Optional)
9. Paint or Markers (Optional)
Directions to Students:
1. Ask students what some of the things we are learning about are when we study Physics. I keep probing them till they land on MOTION
2. I tell them that today they will be making a car that has the best forward motion
3. I ask who Henry Ford was and finally get a student who can make the connection to the FORD company. I ask them if when Henry Ford was making his cars he knew what a car was supposed to look like. They all yelled "NO"! (side note:
François Isaac de Rivaz actually designed the first car, but Ford made the first modern affordable design that many modern cars have been based on).
4. We talk about how an invention can look any way you want it to as long as it works. I wanted them to make me a vehicle that moves the furthest distance no matter how it looks. It could have as many wheels or as few wheels as they want and any design (I think this is important because it fuels creativity).
5. I give them 1 hour, 1 partner, and a select amount of the supplies listed above. During this hour I will not give them any design help. They are required to test their prototypes on the ramp that I made and make modifications before the final race. They are also allowed to decorate and name their creations!
I had lots of different designs!
At the end we all sat down and discussed what we learned about. I had pre-planned 6 points that I wanted them to discusss, and I prompted them towards those areas.
1. The importance of balance. Why?
2. The necessity of running multiple tests (One group had a beautiful car but didn't test it and it turned out that it didn't move at all.)
3. How weight effects movement. Why?
4. How the materials you use will effect your final product ( The students with the life saver wheels (whole in the middle) had an easier time than the ones with the peppermints or lemon drops.)
5. What type of force was being put on the cars to make them move and to make them stop?
6. How did friction play into our lesson?
This is a great lesson because the kids get to be creative and learn lessons for themselves.