5th Grade Inquiry Project: Friction

Students in 5th grade at Northridge Elementary took their interest for a topic in their guided reading group and enriched their understanding using the Design Thinking Process.  In an integrated lesson (reading, writing, and science), students learned about force and motion.  They were so interested in the topic, they barraged their teacher with question after question.  Seeing their passion for the subject, Mrs. Bunta reserved time in the Innovation Lab for these students to persue their own lines of inquiry relating to the topic.  

During their time in the Innovation Lab, students worked with the school's STEM Coordinator, Mr. Woodland, to reframe their inquiry questions as design challenges.  Design challenge questions were phrased as "How might we" questions.  Some of those questions were:

  • "How might we deisgn a lesson that shows third graders the difference between kinetic and potential energy in one simple activity?"
  • "How might we design a product that increases AND decreases friction to meet various users' needs?"
  • "How might we design a way to cause a cube to move faster down a ramp than a sphere?"

Students then worked through the Design Thinking Process to ideate and prototype their ideas.  When they finished, they presented their ideas to Mrs. Bunta, who gave them feedback on their prototypes.  Students came away from this mini-design challenge with a greater understanding of force and motion, and a renewed passion for learning.  As they left the Innovation Lab following their presentations, students could already be heard how they plan to improve their designs to better manipulate friction or demonstrate types of energy.