Skewers and Garden Poles

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What It Is (continued)

As in the Garden Poles--Building Out activity, aesthetics is a particularly important criteria for these structures. Aesthetics is not just how pretty a structure is but also how it makes the observer feel. Is the structure rigid and strong looking? Does it have a pleasing curve to it? Is it open, light, and airy? Does it create a feeling of tension, as if something were about to happen any second? Does it create an image of movement? These skewer structures may be considered sculptures and looked at in those terms. Working on two scales offers the opportunity to discuss how the aesthetic considerations are affected by change in scale. Does a long cantilever which wavers and twists create a different feel than a short one? Do your ideas of shapes that are pleasing change with size? These kinds of questions can lead to the realm of architecture and the role that scale plays in design.

Straws Diagram
Discussing Results

After the session with the skewers, have the students share their results with the whole class. Ask the same sorts of questions as in the work with garden poles. Record their discoveries on the chalkboard or on chart paper; students may also record drawings of structures, observations, and questions in science logs.

  • What happened while building?

  • What difficulties did they encounter and how did they resolve them?

  • What questions do they have as a result of the activity?

    The final building session is followed by weight testing, measurement, and discussion.

  • What physical phenomena did they observe?

  • If their structure was wobbly, how did they stabilize it?

    Often when building cantilevers, the problem of twisting to one side or the other arises. This is less pronounced on this smaller scale but should be looked for so it can be compared to the larger-scale structures.

    Most of these cantilever structures will not hold much weight. In structures that are tested with weights, raising questions like the following can help the students see some of the implications of what they are doing:

  • How many large paper clips can be hung before the structure collapses?

  • Does it matter where the weights are hung?

  • Will the structure be more likely to collapse if the weights are hung in one place or spread out?

  • Predict where you think the structure will weaken first. Can that area be strengthened so that another area will collapse first?

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