Kindergarten Science : Unit #4 - Fast or Slow : Lesson #6

Off to the Races-Applying What We Know About Movement

Objective: Students will be able to alter a toy vehicle to reflect knowledge of movement and speed.
Standards: K-PS2-1 K-PS2-2 SP3 SP4
Subject(s): Science
60 minutes
1 Opening - 5 minutes

This lesson serves as a culminating activity and informal assessment for our exploration of movement and speed. I gather the students together for a short discussion prior to the activity. 

I say to the students, We have had a lot of fun learning about movement and speed. We found out that some things that we did could change the speed of the car.  Now it's time for us to take everything that we know and use it in a fun activity.  We are going to have a race to see who can come up with a toy car that moves the fastest. I am going to have you go to your work stations and we will talk about what we are going to do!

2 Assessment Activity - 30 minutes

Supplies Needed:

  • Something that can be used as a track.  A length of board (like a 2" x 4" that can reach from the edge of a table to the floor) for each group or a set of "Hot Wheels" track that will reach from the floor to the table for each group.    See photo of sample set up. 
  • A "work station" that would have a variety of "Matchbox" type cars, masking tape, washers, quarters, etc. 

I give the students direction for the activity:  I say to the students, You are going to find a car that you think will be fast.  Then you are going to make adjustments to the car to see if you can get it to travel faster.  You can add more weight to the car using the washers and tape that are at the work station.  Use your tracks to test the cars to see if you have increased the car's speed or if you need to make adjustments.  You will have about 10-15 minutes to come up with the car that will be raced against the others in the class to see whose is the fastest.

I tell the students to begin their work and I circulate around to observe them.  I am specifically listening for ways that the students will be adjusting the cars to try to increase its speed.  I make notes on my class list about different contributions, conversations, ideas, etc.  At times, I help students work through disagreements about how to tackle the challenge (see video).

At the end of the work time, I call the class together for the race!

3 The Race - 10 minutes

For this part of the lesson, I set up two of the "Hot Wheel" tracks in the front of the classroom so they can be seen by the entire class.  I say to the students,  It is time for our race.  I invite the students to bring their cars forward.  I mark each table groups car so we are certain to know whose is whose. 

We then begin race the cars, having the winners compete against winners until we determine which car is the fastest.  When we are all done, I ask the students some questions about our race.

Why do you think car____ won?  What made it faster than the other cars?

I bring out the balance scale so we can weight the cars to see if the heaviest car won.  If it is not the heaviest car that won, we discuss why that might be.

I ask them what other things might impact that speed of the car (the wheels, how tall the car is, etc.)  I invite the students to make some guesses as to whether these things impacted the speed of the car.

I congratulate all of the students on a job well done!

Assessing Our Learning
Performance Tasks

For this lesson, I wanted to have the students engage in a performance task to get a measure of their understanding of design and engineering practices.  I left things very open for the students, giving them a framework, but allowing them freedom to take off and "solve the problem". 

This would not have been successful if the students had not been engaged in so many investigations prior to this task.  They had multiple opportunities to figure out "how" to complete this task through a gradual release model.  The students started with very simple investigations and the complexity grew with each investigation that we completed.  The students were also armed with knowledge that they were able to apply to this assessment task.

I relied solely on observations to assess my students' learning without the guidance of rubrics.  This was probably okay, since the standards at the kindergarten level often cite that tasks can be completed with  "guidance and support".  In the future, I would like to develop a rubric to use with this lesson to assess the students mastery of the process.