On Friday, December 6, Norwood's fifth and sixth graders hosted an open house for parents, faculty, and staff to showcase their Contraption Challenge and Experiment Expo projects for Super Science Week.

Since September, fifth graders have been busy completing the Contraption Challenge. They began by learning about the six different simple machines, including the inclined plane, wedge, screw, lever, pulley and wheel and axle. After completing a variety of investigations to learn more about how the simple machines work, they used their knowledge to design and build a Rube Goldberg-inspired machine during the Contraption Challenge unit.

Who was Rube Goldberg? Rube Goldberg was an artist who originally went to school to be an engineer. His “inventions” were actually cartoons that designed complex ways to achieve very easy tasks like keeping a window clean or watering a palm tree. The cartoons were very funny and used a variety of objects like simple machines, humans, and plants. In his cartoons, something would happen to cause a chain reaction of events.

They then worked in teams of three of four students to design and build a contraption that would do one of the following three tasks: raise a flag, put a penny in a bank, or turn off an alarm clock. Contraptions had to be at least 10 steps and had to include at least four of the six different simple machines. For example, one team called the “Bluey Gluey” built a machine to put a penny in a bank. Their final project had 12 steps and used the simple machines of pulley, lever, inclined plane and screw.


Since September, the sixth graders have been working on the Experiment Expo. Each student designed and carried out his or her own unique experiment. In the beginning, they learned the basics of experimentation and formed huge brainstorming charts. They then narrowed down their thinking to the ideas they found the most personally interesting. Topics were interesting and varied, ranging from growing plants and bacteria to the testing the properties of various household items. 
After their proposed ideas were approved, they worked on writing research questions, identifying variables and hypotheses, creating lists of needed materials, and writing highly detailed procedures. They then followed procedures to conduct trials and collect data. Sometimes trials didn’t work; sometimes trials didn’t give them any data. While it was frustrating, the scientists learned how to persevere in the process. Their final analyses were full of scientific and mathematical thought along with a lot of reflections about the results and the process in general.  


Once the Contraption Challenge and Experiment Expo projects were complete, the fifth and sixth graders displayed them in the middle school entrance, 3/4 hallway, and 5/6 hallway where they hosted an open house for parents, faculty, and staff. The scientists explained their projects with great enthusiasm and knowledge, and open house attendees loved watching the Contraption Challenge Projects be put to work and learning the results of some fascinating experiments!

Check out the Super Science Week videos and photos!

Super Science Week Slideshows (5th Grade & 6th Grade)
5th Grade Contraption Challenge Teams (Photos)
6th Grade Experiment Expo Scientists and Displays (Photos)

Located in Bethesda, MD, Norwood School develops students in grades PK-8 into confident lifelong learners who have the academic, character, and leadership skills to succeed in high school and beyond. Recognizing that children are multi-faceted, Norwood provides many opportunities for safe risk-taking, exploration, discovery, and growth in a nurturing, supportive, and inclusive school community.