South Ridge Elementary School teachers Chelsea Tipton and Jennifer Stinson are always seeking new ways to make learning fun and engaging for their students. Their third graders had been learning about force and motion in their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) unit recently when the pair of teachers got an inspiring idea. Instead of relying on textbooks and computers to deliver their lessons, they would host a carnival featuring games that were designed, built, and tested by the students.
The carnival-themed unit was an exciting end-of-year activity for the Ridgefield School District students that allowed them to put the knowledge they gained throughout the year into action. The students researched and designed their own carnival games, incorporating concepts like force (throwing, pushing, spinning, and rolling) to achieve motion for objects (like balls, marshmallows, and beanbags). Then the students had a week to build their games out of recycled materials from home.
“They really were creative with what they came up with,” Stinson said. And the games in the classrooms varied widely: a cardboard golf game with a pool noodle putter, a popsicle stick catapult with tiny pom-pom projectiles, and an air cannon blowing puffs of air at standing cards were among many clever ways students showcased their STEM learning.
Under the bright sun on the last full day of school, the students set up their games near the playground. A light breeze created a challenge for some of them; ping pong balls, oatmeal canisters, and bottle caps blew off the tables, with children scurrying after them. But soon the games were all set up, with students shouting and laughing as they threw balls at targets, pitched rings, and bowled at water bottles. The students won small prizes provided by the teachers to complete the carnival theme.
“The kids absolutely loved this project and said it was one of their favorites,” Tipton said. “One of my students said that she enjoyed everyone’s games, especially because they were made by kids and weren’t perfect, but they were still super fun. It’s definitely a project we’ll keep doing in the future!”