Hammocks for STEM students? Of, course! Now, if you thinking of how we love lying in a hammock on the beach, surrounded by palm trees, and listening to the sounds of the waves rolling in slowly, I am not promising you that this challenge will recreate that scene for you- but it is still fun!
Let’s build some hammock models!
Easy steps are the best! I go over the rules of this task with students and make sure they know they have four areas to make decisions about.
- The supports at each end of the hammock are important.
- The hammock bed must have a shape that works with the supports.
- The hammock must be held aloft.
- Decorate it!
It is so fun to watch students make these decisions and then take on the various jobs that apply to each. (It’s my favorite part of STEM!)
The Support System
The first time we tried building hammock models I used a support item that was a sure thing. We used the legs of our lab stools. Students made the hammock beds and tied them to the metal stool legs. The challenge with that version of this activity was that their hammock bed had to hold weight. This version is different. The students have to create the end supports that will hold up the hammock.
The first thing they encounter is how on earth to get those cardboard tubes to stand up. I have a cardboard connecting poster in my room and send students to take a look at it to choose a connection method that will work. The flange is the one that they thought would work best for this challenge. Notice those little tabs that are taped to the table in the photo above. That’s a flange!
TIP: You can make a cardboard poster like the one I have. It’s super easy to put together and we use it all the time. I am including a link at the end of this post for a blog post about Cardboard!
The Hammock Bed
This is where the task gets really interesting. Cutting fabric is a challenge for some students. Cutting a particular size or shape is even more challenging. It is also something that can easily be shown to students- great learning experience. The hammock bed must also fit in the space between the supports.
So, where do I get the fabric for the hammock beds? I shop the fabric department at Wal-Mart and get small packages that have about a 2-foot long piece of fabric. I cut those in fourths. The packages are created to be used for quilting, I think. There are many great colors and I grab about 5 packages. You can also save scraps of fabric from other projects.
TIP: What can you use instead of fabric? We have tried felt pieces. These can be purchased at a craft store. We have also tried brown paper. Felt and paper work fine. I have not tried foam sheets, but I think they would also work great!
TIP: What do I do with students that are having trouble cutting fabric? First of all, I give them my good scissors- the ones that are on my desk and no one touches! Secondly, I show them how to lay the fabric flat on the table and hold it taut. It will cut much easier if the fabric is not limp and bunched. Sometimes, one student will hold the edges while a second student cuts.
Time to Hang the Hammock
When the hammock bed is ready and the end supports are in place it is time to hang the bed up. This proved to be challenging. With my first group, I made holes in the tube for them to thread the string through. This was SO HARD. (Bonus Tip: Don’t do this!) String unravels and it is really hard to push through tiny holes. We discovered that just taping the string in place on the support columns was much more effective.
In the top photo above the team cut the fabric and used those loops to hang their hammock! In the other photos, either a pipe cleaner or a rubber band was used.
Since we used cardboard tubes, every group wanted to decorate the tubes as a tree. We used brown construction paper and covered some of the tubes. Students made leaves and branches and a few other items to make their hammock area look relaxing.
This was a quick challenge. We easily finished in one class session and we left our hammocks hanging on display for others to see.
Start saving fabric scraps so you can try this fabulous challenge. It is available at Teachers Pay Teachers store. Just click on any image in this post!
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