Inquiry approach at St Joseph’s
Grade 5/6 students of St Joseph’s Primary School, Warragul have immersed themselves in the inquiry approach to learning, which has incorporated STEM, during term three.
STEM is the combination of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The children began their unit of work with a visit to Gumbuya World to see the improvements and the ‘behind the scenes’ aspects of running a theme park.
They studied aspects related to roller coasters including potential and kinetic energy, the forces of gravity, centripetal forces, clothoid loops, G forces, friction, magnetism, velocity and acceleration.
The students read about the history of the roller coaster and explored the improvements of theme parks over the years.
They looked at geographical and financial reasons why theme parks are located in certain parts of Australia and throughout the world. They also studied the aesthetics of theme parks and how they attract customers, in addition to ethical decisions made to make theme parks safe, accessible and inclusive.
The students were given two projects to be completed in groups.
The first project was to design and construct two roller coaster carriages that could be coupled together and make the journey down the ramp that each class had in their room.
There were many hours of sketching, drawing labelled diagrams, technical drawings, redesigning, constructing, testing, analysing, making changes and finally developing the final product. One of the ramps was equipped with an Arduino microcontroller which was able to measure the final velocity of each roller coaster to the microsecond.
The second project the children were given was to program a Sphero robot using their iPads and simple block coding to navigate around a course with predetermined obstacles.
The Sphero needed to complete a 360degree rotation, be off the ground for at least five seconds, pass through a structure that can hold at least two kilograms of weight, and finally drop off a structure and land in an absorbent material.
The children enjoyed learning how to code a robot and were continually required to use their logic, problem solving skills and a lot of persistence to achieve a goal.
During term two the students experimented with a construction kit called Makedo.
A set of plastic screws, screwdrivers and saws enabled the children to build objects out of cardboard. The children were required to build a contraption that would be able to hold their drink bottles off the ground or table. This was a great start to learning the principles of design and construction and learn about some engineering ideas.
One of the classes created a model of a theme park.
Most of the materials used came from packaging and the Reverse Art Truck in Narre Warren, a council-based resource with a focus on sustainability.
Throughout the term each child kept a journal of their learning, which were also on display at the Expo.
In the journal there were entries such as scientific understandings, poetry, historical facts, letters requesting Baw Baw Shire to construct a roller coaster in Warragul, reading comprehension exercises, note taking, labelled diagrams, pie charts, design ideas and artistic work.
“I liked how we got to apply our mathematics knowledge of angles when completing the Sphero Challenge,” Cooper Patterson said.
“I enjoyed the whole design and construction process involved with building our roller coaster carriages,” Finn Sheehan said.
“I learnt how an axle works and how they can help your wheels move,” Sapphire Wells said.
“I liked the design process, doing the sketches and the labelled diagrams for our carriages,” Stella Dennis said.
“I enjoyed doing the coding for the Spheros and working in a team to build the obstacles”, Charlie van Rossum said.
“During this unit of inquiry I had many opportunities to develop my group work skills such as using other people’s good ideas for our team goals,” Angus Dunsmuir said.
Below left: Building an entire theme park from second hand materials took about eight weeks. Heat McCarthy and Mackenzie Heenan said they learnt a lot about measurements