Elementary science activities have the capacity to drive tremendous enthusiasm for learning...if you manage frustration before it reaches the "I quit" stage.
Should I create an "impossible task" in science for a team-building exercise?
I had the thought to create an "impossible task" (the students wouldn't know in the start that the task was impossible) and then create teams to accomplish the task. Do you think this is a good team-building exercise, or will it lead to frustration, discord and challenge my classroom management?
~ Travis, Waterton
Wow! What an interesting social experiment.
The success of elementary science activities or lesson plans like this all depend upon how they are set up. Check out the classroom team-building section for suggestions on how to get groups working well together before you finalize your plan.
During your introductory lesson I would introduce famous scientists like Thomas Edison who had many more failures during their their scientific careers than they did successes. Talk about what it must have felt like when scientists couldn't figure out solutions to their problems – such as Edison and his many light bulb failures.
Children need to know that there isn't always a readily-available solution to a particular problem.However...there are pitfalls here...
I suggest four different steps to increase the success factor in this elementary science activity.
During your "impossible task," be very cognizant of frustration levels. Some frustration is a good thing as long as it is channeled into lots of questioning, hypothesizing and attempts at problem solving.
Circulate among your groups and ask those deeper-thinking questions:
"What might be your next step?"
"Can you look at the problem from a different angle?"
"How would you design an experiment to test that solution?"
Well that idea didn't work...
Keep track of each group's best ideas and pull them together for the entire class to ponder...and do this well before they hit the "I quit" stage of frustration.
Discuss connections between your students' feelings about their elementary science projects and those of the scientists you have studied. Which leads to my biggest suggestion...
After reaching a consensus that the elementary science activity is, as presented, impossible...let them change the problem.
Let them know they can change one variable and then mentally test whether any of their solutions will now work. This last step could really turn your "impossible task" into a great learning experience in flexible problem solving.
I'd love to hear the result of your elementary science lesson plans. Contact me later and let me know how it goes!
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