When grade 3 students wondered how much weight a paper table could support, STEAM teacher Brad Buckner decided it was a perfect opportunity to let them puzzle out the answer on their own.
For several weeks in October, students tested paper tubes of various shapes and heights to determine if construction paper, when properly manipulated, might hold someone the size and weight of “Mr. Brad.”
“They came up with the idea,” Buckner said. “They made triangle tubes and hexagon tubes and they finally decided circular tubes might be strong enough to hold a person without crumpling.”
The design process started with one important question: “What if?” Students started exchanging design ideas. They traced their teacher’s outline on a long sheet of paper and got to work. They built, tested and re-evaluated. Students in STEAM class learn that when they test a design, it might not work the first time—and that’s not a mistake, but an opportunity. What might seem impossible—or at least improbable—at first can be achieved through teamwork and trial and error.
Working together, students made paper tubes by the dozen and filled in Mr. Brad’s shape, essentially building a colorful paper table.
Testing day arrived on October 31. A crowd of excited students in lower school grabbed their iPads, ready to film the big moment when their teacher tested their design. When asked if they had confidence that the paper would hold, every student shouted an enthusiastic, “Yes!”
And guess what? They were right! The paper table not only held Mr. Brad’s weight, he said it was actually quite comfortable.
“The students learned a lot about the concepts of balance and distribution of weight, and it was really all directed by them and what they wanted to find out,” he said.