Collaborative Tiger Team Day and the Tallest Tower Challenge
On October 25, while three of the classes were away at Camp Taiwan, six of our Grade 5 classes came together to challenge themselves and build their skills as critical & creative thinkers, self-directed learners, and collaborative communicators. The students worked in small teams to develop designs for what would be, hopefully, tallest tower in the room that could hold up under the weight of a can of food for one minute, using nothing but paper and tape.
They first met to brainstorm possible designs, to look at examples of tall and strong towers from the real world and stretch their thinking with a gallery walk, and then to commit to their own team’s design. With a limit of 30 pieces of paper (and a point deduction for each piece of paper used!) and only one role of tape, the students had to be strategic!
After lunch, they got to work, by building and adjusting their tower design as necessary. Finally, they tested their towers! Which tower design could hold up under a weight of 500 grams for at least one minute? After testing, students scored their design, by measuring the distance from the table to the bottom of the can in centimeters, and subtracting by the total number of pieces of paper used multiplied by two. So, if students created a tower with a height of 100cm using 20 pieces of paper, their score would be 60 points!
This fun and engaging challenge not only addressed three of our schoolwide learning outcomes, but it also covered the Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations 3-5-ETS1-3, where students must be able to, “pan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.”
This lesson also helped students develop toward the International Society for Technology in Education standards of 1.4.a, requiring student to, “know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems,” and 1.4.d, where students must, “exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.”
We caught up with Maddy P., a Grade 5 student to ask them about their experience on this Collaborative Tiger Team Day.
What was the most exciting part of the challenge for you?
“The most exciting part of the challenge for me was getting the tower to hold the weight for one minute.”
Did you learn anything new about yourself or your classmates during this Collaborative Tiger Team Day?
“I learned that we need to be more balanced on what focus on. So, like, we wanted to focus on building high, but we also wanted to make it sturdy. Last time we did a challenge, we were too focused on making it strong and sturdy when really we needed to get the ball to go through it slowly.”
What was one of the specific challenges your team faced, and how did you overcome it?
“I think it was taping the tubes together, because we didn’t want to waste paper. We overcame it by having a creative solution to support it using tape instead.”
Two of our teachers, Ms. Julie Kozak and Mr. Morgan Boepple, also shared their thoughts on this unique learning experience for our students.
Ms. Kozak, what were some of the notable instances of teamwork or problem-solving that you observed in the Grade 5 students?
I observed groups working together effectively by making sure everyone had a role. While some members were rolling paper to make supports, others were taping and trying to reinforce their structure. All students contributed ideas and worked together to test their designs to make them successful. There was a lot of time spent trying out different solutions to make the towers high, strong, and stable enough to hold the weight.
Mr. Boepple, how did you support the students as they worked to meet the learning goals of the challenge?
One way I helped them was by supporting the collaboration itself, making sure that everybody had a voice and was contributing equally. Additionally, I helped some students to be proactive in asking for clarification or how they could contribute if they felt confused or shy. In another way, I was able to give feedback on the integrity of the design, leading them to consider new ideas of how to revise and improve their structure.
As we’re now on our second Collaborative Tiger Team Day, Ms. Kozak, have you noticed any changes in how students interact with each other in the classroom during the regular day-to-day teaching and learning?
I have noticed that students are much better communicators, and they are really making sure to include the feedback of everyone when making decisions. Groups are also seeking out ways to solve their own problems and questions rather than just relying on asking a teacher how to do something. I’m noticing a lot more independence this year from my class, which is a very important skill for the students both in school and out of school!
Stay tuned for the next update on our Collaborative Tiger Team Day! We already know that our Grade 5 will have an amazing time building their skills and learning as a community.