Once upon a time… I was a classroom teacher. Third grade!
Then one summer I made the switch to be a specialist- the STEM Lab teacher.
Our students had never had STEM. So, I knew I was going to have to open the first few classes with a sure “hook” to get them interested and excited. With my fourth graders, we tried Paper Airplanes and that was spectacular. With 5th grade, we tried a rescue device that was really fun.
And, with third graders, I tried Blow Tubes.
Yep, you read that right.
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Now, before you think I was totally crazy, let me explain.
It’s all about Newton’s Laws of Motion!
The whole idea behind this blow tube task was one of Newton’s Laws. The second one to be exact.
It seems that an object will not move unless forces being applied to the object become unbalanced. So, the marshmallow or pom-pom in the blow tube will not move until a force acts on it and overcomes the force of friction. Blowing hard will do that.
First, you need the tubes!
We have used industrial-grade tubes which are stiffer and cannot be bent at all. However, regular paper towel tubes work great, too!
We have tried using marshmallows, but discovered pom-poms work better!
You also need calculators and a way to measure the travelling distance after every launch.
And because, kids are kids… notice that the tube is covered with plastic. That was my solution to keeping the tubes free from germs. The plastic is wrapped around the end of the tube and held in place with a rubber band.
I made a hole in the center of the stretched plastic and we replaced the plastic wrap whenever it stretched too much or just need to be fresh.
Also, every student had a tube!
Back to Newton…
Okay, so remember that unbalanced state the object and forces might have. Well, Newton also said, that the greater the length of time the unbalanced forces act upon an object the farther the object will move.
Basically, the longer the tube the longer you can blow the pom-pom. Therefore, it will travel farther. (Yes, that is very simplified language, but remember, I tried this challenge with third graders. At the beginning of the year…)
Here you see us measuring the distance the pom-pom traveled.
This introduced even more “variables”.
Which is another thing this STEM activity does! We talked a lot about the Scientific Method and controlling variables.
When I say “a lot” I mean constantly. We needed a lot of reminding to test one variable at a time.
I have learned to measure distances with kids in the easiest way possible. We use our floor tiles!
Each tile is 12 inches. We just count the tiles and measure the little bit extra the pom-pom traveled. Then we add those numbers. Students record their data and then we learn to average.
This challenge was a definite hook for my third graders. They loved the blowing and measuring. I loved all the skills we covered and the busy-ness of this challenge. Kids were in constant motion. I also love data tables….
I mentioned several activities in this post so if you want to read more, click on the titles below:
And, if you need a sure way to grab your kids’ attention, a blow tube will do it!