Thursday, August 23, 2012

Marble Maze--A Small Group Challenge

21st century students need to be able to think creatively, problem-solve, and collaborate with their peers.  In addition, 21st century teachers need to be facilitators and not just dispensers of knowledge.
Today, my students completed a group challenge called "Marble Maze" and it was a great opportunity for me to assess how well they can create, problem-solve, and collaborate with others. 
Basically, for this activity, I divided my students into four groups, distributed materials (yard stick, masking tape, scissors, marble, empty cereal boxes, paper towel rolls, and toilet tissue rolls--next time add index cards), and explained that they were to construct a maze so that the marble drops from a minimum height of 12 inches to the ground/surface in the longest amount of time possible.  The minimum time was 3 seconds.  They had 30 minutes to construct their maze. 

Before allowing them to start building, I gave them 5 minutes to sketch their plan and discuss their ideas.  Then, as the timer began, they immediately (and excitedly!) got to work: 
I gave no other directions and watched them work.  I walked around, took some notes, occasionally asked how they were doing, but mainly just observed.

One group tested out their structure several times but the marble kept falling off the maze at the same spot.  I could tell they were having trouble, so I went over, asked a few questions, and encouraged them to think about what they could do to solve the problem.  It was SO HARD for me not to fix it for them and say, "Here; if you'll just add a piece of cardboard in this spot, it'll create an angle and the marble will stay on track."  I just kept quiet though.  They tried to fix the issue, but the poor marble didn't last two seconds on the maze they created.

Here are the final products:  
Group 1:
 Group 2: (This maze won, by the way, with a travel time of 4 seconds)
 Group 3: (I liked the zigzag!)
 Group 4:
While explaining their objective, I said something like, "And the group whose marble has the longest travel time, will win."  Several spoke up, "Win what??!!"  I paused and a child piped up, "We'll win the satisfaction of a job well-done!"  haha!  Yes!  Encourage intrinsic motivation!

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