Bulb Archived: A/R Partners 2017-2018: Whitehouse & Stover

1. How did you and your teaching partner decide to do this project? (Please describe the context of your project, this can include influence from previous projects, context of your school, community, etc.):  Patty and Margy have worked on CAPE projects for the past four years. Patty is the Engineering Lab teacher for K-6 students at Goudy, focusing on the engineering part of Goudy’s science curriculum that is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Margy is a CAPE artist, and her main artistic focus is sculpture and design.

This year, they decided to work with 2nd grade students, who are developing as engineers and learning about the engineering process. 

The process includes:

Asking Questions about the project to learn about the constraints and criteria for the project (What materials are available? What does the bridge need to do? How do the materials interact?)

Imagining a Solution to the engineering problem at hand. This is the brainstorming portion of the project.

Making a Plan from the imagined solutions. A plan shows the design, labeling the materials, and deliniates the size and quantity of materials.

Creating the Sculpture using the plan. This is place where students may find out that the plan needs refining because the bridge does not work as planned.

Revising/Improving the bridges until the constraints and criteria are met to a satisfactory degree. This part of the process may take several iterations, and may send the students back to any prior portion of the process.

Prior to starting the CAPE project, students  have developed skills to build bridges that can hold up a required amount of weight, is stable enough to have toy cars drive across, and has enough room for a model boat to go under the bridge. Essentially, students have worked in teams using the Engineering Design Process to create and design a bridge that reflects certain criteria and constraints.  We used that as the springboard for our CAPE Project.


2. Big Idea:  Finding connections between the Engineering Design Process and art making / Working together to build bridges to hold dreams

3. Inquiry: Can we make bridges that hold our wishes and dreams?

4. Grade Level: 2nd grade

5. Academic Subject(s): Engineering

6. Artistic Discipline(s): Sculpture

7. How many years have you worked together as partners?: Four

8. Please describe what you did and what you made for this project: 

As stated, students have learned to use the Engineering Design Process as they worked in teams to create bridges. In their homerooms, they read the poem “I Have a Dream” by Dr. Martin Luther King, and sang “Lean on Me.”  These helped support a discussion about dreams and helping each other.  Students in each of three classes will work in several small groups to design create a single bridge that will hold, or support, all students’ dreams and wishes. Students will work together to determine how they would like their bridges to “support” their dreams. Will they be kept a secret– written and somehow covered up? Will they be embedded into the structure of the bridges so they are part of the support system? Will they be suspended from the bridges–separate, but still needing the bridge’s support?

We will look at sculptures and installation art that incorporates elements of structural engineering and suspension. We will look at works that will inspire students to think about bridges in both traditional and inventive ways. For example, Chris Burden “Erector Sculptures” that use bridge making techniques to create sculptures and Sarah Sze’s dense suspended cosmic systems. Students will also explore and experiment with a variety of materials having different densities and load capacities as well as different patterns and means to form connections in their individual and collaborative works. Each class will work together to combine and create bridges between their individual works, creating a larger collaborative installation. Final installations may be site specific to a public space in the school (hallway or stairwell). In the planning and in the final critique, students will consider what the formal and structural qualities of the “bridges” and connections within and between the sculptures may say about their secrets and dreams. For example: what may a sturdy, patterned horizontal bridge suggest when compared and opposed to a vertically suspended more precarious structure? In this way, students will further connect form and content and engineering and art.  


9. What were you hoping the students would learn during this project?: We hoped students have learned to use the Engineering Design Process as they worked in teams to create bridges. We hope they are beginning to understand that the process in fact is a useful one in a variety of settings. We hope they realize that fulfilling dreams starts with deciding what you want to dream about, then asking others to help you realize your dream. We hope they see that an artistic project can represent an idea or a dream.


10. What surprised you during this project? What was surprising were the variety of dreams and the depth of second graders thinking about their dreams: I want to be the first female President of the United States.  I want to be a veterinarian. I want to be able to do real magic. I want to make sure all of my family goes to heaven. The other surprising thing was how thoughtful their sculptures were in their depictions of their dreams, and how much they used what they learned about bridges to construct their dream bridges. It was also surprising how much time the students took with their bridge critiques. These were essentially personal reflections, and students were very thoughtful in their responses, taking almost a whole class period to reflect. I think this shows the big impact the project had on them.


11. What worked in this project and why? What didn’t work and why?: This actually turned out to be two projects: making dreams and building bridges. Both took a long time and a lot of creativity by the teams. 


12. How did you assess student learning?: (ex. Was it formative or summative? Was it a written, verbal or performative based assessment? Were students provided with teacher or peer feedback? Did you use a rubric or portfolio system? Etc.)  Students were assessed in several ways:

– Working through the Engineering Design Process to make the bridges. This was basically a pass/fail, since students couldn’t proceed to the next step without completing the preceeding one. Teams were each given an Engineering Dream Bridges packet containing pages that needed to be completed as the team worked through the process.

– Working as teams. This was assessed formatively. When teams were unable to work through a process or problem, Margy or I worked with that team to help direct the problem solving so they could move on and continue to work as a team.

– Critiquing the bridges. Students were given a critique form to share their thinking about their bridge, their class’ bridge, and the bridge the other second grade class made. This was an opportunity for students to reflect on the process and the process of others. 


13. How did you share your student’s learning process with others? Who did you share it with?: The bridges have been set up in the hallway for about six weeks. They were shared in several ways:

– Students in each class critiqued their own as well as the other class’ bridges using a critique sheet.

– Families observed the projects during Family STEM Night. A description of the process was up on the board for families to read, and they were invited to share their dreams by writing them on the silver abutments on each end of the bridge.

– The National Magnet Cluster Association held its annual meeting in Chicago, and 40 members came to Goudy for two hours to observe our school in action. Four groups of eight teachers and administrators had a chance to see the bridges and speak with the second graders about the Bridges of Dreams Project.

– Kindergarten students were shown the bridges prior to coming into engineering lab.


14. Standards Addressed: (Common Core, Next Generation Science, National Core Arts):

Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

Apply knowledge of available resources, tools, and technologies to investigate personal ideas through the art-making process.

Anchor Standard 2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.

Create personally satisfying artwork using a variety of artistic processes and materials.

Anchor Standard 3: Refine and complete artistic work.

Elaborate visual information by adding details in an artwork to enhance emerging meaning.


Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.


By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories and poetry, in the grades 2-3 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.


K-2-ETS1-1. Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.

K-2-ETS1-2. Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.

K-2-ETS1-3. Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.