Power from water

Lesson: Design and engineer a simple water wheel that will lift a 1-ounce paper clip.

The perimeter of Robin Davis's fourth-grade classroom at Bellview Elementary School looked like a recycling center. Soon, spoons, yogurt containers, plastic eggs and tongue depressors would become water-wheel blades. Plastic containers, Styrofoam, corks and plastic bottles would be transformed into wheels. Skewers, dowels and straws became shafts.

Using this wealth of materials, teams of two worked gathering, poking, cutting, tapping, hammering, measuring and discussing original water-wheel designs.

In preparation for Thursday's experience, Davis' students built water wheels upstairs in their new science lab using supplies from their Full Option Science System kits. They were now ready to explore new materials to create a device that changes the energy of moving water into power.

The teacher and science lab educational assistant Jenny Sagal went from table to table helping, talking and supporting the budding engineers.

Next the test: How many syringes of water sprayed into the wheel were needed to lift a paperclip attached to three feet of string? Nate Mickey's Tinkertoy water wheel was the first to be tested. Five syringes of water and success.

"Stay clear," said Leah Aaronson, confident that her water wheel, crafted from colorful plastic egg, would quickly draw in the string and elevate the paper clip. She was right. It happened on the first spray of water.

What more did students learn? "We get to be expressive and creative," said Jenna Altig. That's how future scientists and engineers are created.

— Heidi Monjure

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