Hands-on Activity: Engineering in the World of Dr. Seuss

Contributed by: Multidisciplinary Research Experiences for Teachers of Elementary Grades, Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, University of Florida

Quick Look

Grade Level: 4 (3-5)

Time Required: 9 hours

(conducted over 12 days)

Expendable Cost/Group: US $10.00

Group Size: 4

Activity Dependency: None

Subject Areas: Chemistry, Measurement, Physical Science, Problem Solving

(left) A gelatinous clear blob of slime on a green background (right) A LEGO figure dressed as a researcher wearing a lab coat and holding a laptop computer.
If a LEGO figure is completed coated in a strange green gel; what kind of solvent can you use to remove it?
copyright
Copyright © (left) 2008 Catherine Bulinski, CC-BY-ND 2.0, Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/kasiaflickr/2726871276 (right) 2017 Brickset, CC-BY-2.0. Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/brickset/35215289964

Summary

Students are introduced to the engineering design process within the context of reading Dr. Seuss’s book, Bartholomew and the Oobleck. To do so, students study a sample of aloe vera gel (representing the oobleck) in lab groups. After analyzing the substance, they use the engineering design process to develop and test other substances in order to make it easier for rain to wash away the oobleck. Students must work within a set of constraints outlined within the Seuss book and throughout the activity and use only substances available within the context of the plot. Students also take into consideration the financial and environmental costs associated with each substance.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Students identify with the work engineers perform and learn about the engineering design process as they research a problem within the context of a popular children’s book. They design, test, iterate, and select solutions to their problem while considering the environmental impacts of their solutions and, by extension, are exposed to environmental engineering concepts. Like engineers, they communicate their process and results as a group to others.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Explain the differences between solids and liquids.
  • Use an electronic scale to tare and measure a substance.
  • Use a syringe to measure a liquid in ml.
  • Take accurate and thorough notes in their lab notebooks.
  • Create a multimedia presentation to present their engineering design process and resulting prototype.
  • Explain the engineering design process.

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

NGSS Performance Expectation

3-5-ETS1-1. Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost. (Grades 3 - 5)

Do you agree with this alignment?

Click to view other curriculum aligned to this Performance Expectation
This activity focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Define a simple design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process, or system and includes several criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

Alignment agreement:

Possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints). The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution (criteria). Different proposals for solutions can be compared on the basis of how well each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account.

Alignment agreement:

NGSS Performance Expectation

3-5-ETS1-2. Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. (Grades 3 - 5)

Do you agree with this alignment?

Click to view other curriculum aligned to this Performance Expectation
This activity focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Generate and compare multiple solutions to a problem based on how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the design problem.

Alignment agreement:

Research on a problem should be carried out before beginning to design a solution. Testing a solution involves investigating how well it performs under a range of likely conditions.

Alignment agreement:

At whatever stage, communicating with peers about proposed solutions is an important part of the design process, and shared ideas can lead to improved designs.

Alignment agreement:

A system can be described in terms of its components and their interactions.

Alignment agreement:

NGSS Performance Expectation

3-5-ETS1-3. Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved. (Grades 3 - 5)

Do you agree with this alignment?

Click to view other curriculum aligned to this Performance Expectation
This activity focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Plan and conduct an investigation collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, using fair tests in which variables are controlled and the number of trials considered.

Alignment agreement:

Tests are often designed to identify failure points or difficulties, which suggest the elements of the design that need to be improved.

Alignment agreement:

Different solutions need to be tested in order to determine which of them best solves the problem, given the criteria and the constraints.

Alignment agreement:

NGSS Performance Expectation

5-PS1-4. Conduct an investigation to determine whether the mixing of two or more substances results in new substances. (Grade 5)

Do you agree with this alignment?

Click to view other curriculum aligned to this Performance Expectation
This activity focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Conduct an investigation collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, using fair tests in which variables are controlled and the number of trials considered.

Alignment agreement:

When two or more different substances are mixed, a new substance with different properties may be formed.

Alignment agreement:

Cause and effect relationships are routinely identified, tested, and used to explain change.

Alignment agreement:

  • Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text. (Grade 5) More Details

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  • Report on a topic or text or present an opinion, sequencing ideas logically and using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace. (Grade 5) More Details

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  • Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, sound) and visual displays in presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes. (Grade 5) More Details

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  • Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, using formal English when appropriate to task and situation. (Grade 5) More Details

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  • Convert among different-sized standard measurement units within a given measurement system (e.g., convert 5 cm to 0.05 m), and use these conversions in solving multi-step, real world problems. (Grade 5) More Details

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  • Students will develop an understanding of the attributes of design. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Students will develop an understanding of engineering design. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Students will develop abilities to apply the design process. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Students will develop abilities to assess the impact of products and systems. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use information and communication technologies. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Convert among different-sized standard measurement units (i.e., km, m, cm; kg, g; lb, oz.; l, ml; hr, min, sec) within a given measurement system (e.g., convert 5 cm to 0.05 m), and use these conversions in solving multi-step, real world problems. (Grade 5) More Details

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  • Recognize and explain that authentic scientific investigation frequently does not parallel the steps of "the scientific method." (Grade 5) More Details

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  • Define a problem, use appropriate reference materials to support scientific understanding, plan and carry out scientific investigations of various types such as: systematic observations, experiments requiring the identification of variables, collecting and organizing data, interpreting data in charts, tables, and graphics, analyze information, make predictions, and defend conclusions. (Grade 5) More Details

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  • Describe key ideas and details while working individually or collaboratively using digital tools and media-rich resources in a way that informs, persuades, and/or entertains. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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  • Describe how models and simulations can be used to solve real world issues in science and engineering. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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  • Create a simple model of a system (e.g., flower or solar system) and explain what the model shows and does not show. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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  • Describe how computational thinking can be used to solve real life issues in science and engineering. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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  • Solve real world problems in science and engineering using computational thinking skills. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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  • Explain that searches may be enhanced by using Boolean logic (e.g., using "not", "or", "and"). (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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  • Identify, research, and collect a data set on a topic, issue, problem, or question using age-appropriate technologies. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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Materials List

Each group needs:

  • scoop spatula, available online
  • LEGO mini-figure, available online
  • white LEGO brick base plate, available online 
  • swizzle sticks, available online
  • lab notebooks; one per student
  • hand lens magnifier
  • oral dispenser syringes, 5 ml, available online; at least 1 per group, but 50 per class is better
  • 5 clear plastic jars, 5 g, or cosmetic containers with lids
  • large poster board
  • safety goggles (for every student)
  • lab gloves
  • Material Costs List

To share with the entire class:

  • Bartholomew and the Oobleck, by Dr. Seuss; available on Amazon as a hardcopy, or free as a digital scan
  • digital scale that can tare with metric measurements, available online
  • small white plastic bottles for each substance (such as medicine bottles)
  • bottle labels
  • paper towels
  • Sun Laboratories Aloe Vera Gel, available online
  • disposal container labeled “Hazardous Waste”, about 1 L
  • white printer paper, one ream
  • substances for designing solutions for collapsing the oobleck; (it is fine if you cannot buy them all or there is a difference in brand, so long as there is a variety of substances)
    • sparkling water, 250 ml
    • iodized salt, 128 g (or 1 cup)
    • dry shampoo or baby powder, 1 bottle
    • foaming dishwashing or handwashing soap, 1 bottle (it is important for it to be a foaming soap so that its consistency is less viscous)
    • hydrogen peroxide, 500 ml (or 16 oz)
    • natural epsom salt, 128 g (or 1 cup)
    • cane sugar, 128 g (or 1 cup)
  • stack of sticky notes
  • digital camera or device with recording capability
  • computer or tablet access
  • Substance Translation Document (for the END of the entire activity)

Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/activities/view/uof-2354-engineering-world-oobleck-design-process] to print or download.

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Pre-Req Knowledge

  • Grade-level appropriate science knowledge.

Introduction/Motivation

Today we are going to learn about solids, liquids, the engineering design process, taking measurements, and a very interesting substance called a microgel—all within the context of the world of Dr. Seuss! We are going to learn how to work in a laboratory environment with our fellow engineers, and are going to consider how the substances we develop and the actions we take during our research affect others. 

Before we take our Pre-Assessment, let’s take some time to do something called a Jot Thought about everything we know about the world of Dr. Seuss. (Note: this is a strategy in which students write one thought at a time on a sticky note, using as many sticky notes as necessary in an amount of time determined by the teacher. Students then work with a small group or as a class to sort their thoughts into categories.)

Following the Jot Thought, let’s take our Dr. Seuss-themed Pre-Assessment to see what you already know about science and engineering.

[Following the pre-assessment]: It is important to be able to identify problems and design challenges in this activity. Each group gets a category of sticky notes from the Jot Thought. Think about as many possible problems as you can, related to those sticky notes. They could be problems the characters already had, or new ones. They could even be problems related to something other than the characters.

[After brainstorming] Let’s share out some of the potential problems we identified.

[After sharing] As you will soon see, the world of Dr. Seuss needs a lot of engineers!

Start by reading the story Bartholomew and the Oobleck followed by playing the What is Engineering? video. Have the LEGO characters displayed on their platforms in a prominent place in class.

Procedure

Background
Teachers who have a limited engineering background should become familiar with the engineering design process, the use of an electronic scale, mass and volume in metric units, and the use of a syringe.

There is a substance within the aloe gel (the oobleck surrogate) that causes its unique properties called a carbomer. This carbomer is a microgel. Substances with carbomer in them can seem like liquids (for example, hand sanitizers or aloe gel), but they are technically solids. Observing gels like these shows that the bubbles in them never rise, even if they are left undisturbed. However, if the gels are moved or pushed through a pump, they act like a liquid. Another way to think of this is to consider a ball pit at a playground; it looks like a solid, but when walked through it behaves a lot more like a liquid. Carbomers can be classified as a liquid-like solids and can be precipitated when the pH changes. When the carbomer is precipitated, the substance it is in becomes much easier to rinse away. Precipitating carbomer can be accomplished by adding salt or dish soap. The substances provided to “dissolve” the oobleck have varying rates success—except for the sugar, which does not precipitate the oobleck. When the substances are combined together they have varying effects—one concoction actually solidified the oobleck, and made it harder to wash away. This is one reason why multiple iterations are possible, because there are many options in terms of which substances are used, and the amount and ratios of substances used.

Note: this activity is split over a 12 day period; however, some portions of the activity may be done in a shorter period of time than others.

Before the activity

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

  • Prepare to pull up the Engineering Design Process visual aid. Prepare a model notebook.
  • Build the LEGO scene display (mini-figure and white base) and prepare a syringe of water.
  • If you have a lab coat, put it on! 

Day 4

  • Copy the Materials Cost List, Safety Agreement, Final Rubric, and the Responsibilities Log.
  • Cue up any necessary YouTube videos, such as this one for Boolean search terms.
  • Place the aloe vera gel in clear bottles and label it “oobleck” with the stickers.
  • Prepare the following lab materials.
    • Place the iodized salt, dry shampoo or baby powder, hydrogen peroxide, epsom salt, and cane sugar into the white bottles.
    • Place the other substances that are intended for collapsing the oobleck in their new containers (sparkling water, foaming dishwashing or handwashing soap in the clear bottles and label them with the stickers and their Seuss-translated name—see the Materials Cost List).
  • Prepare to take pictures throughout the lab to help them create their presentations.
  • Prepare the Hazardous Waste container.

Day 5

Day 6

  • Review their submissions and provide written feedback.
  • Prepare the classroom for the lab.

Day 7

  • Look at their evaluation sheets and additional or revised designs, prepare feedback and help students along if they are struggling.
  • Print Reflections Sheet.

Days 8-10

  • Load their videos on computers and any pictures taken throughout the design process. Also, load “stock” photos of objects from our lab. Alternatively, you can provide each group with a poster board to create a hard copy presentation.
  • Load any technology or provide supplies for students to make their presentations.

Day 11

Day 12

  • Copy the Post-Assessment.
  • Complete the part of the rubric that can be done before the Post-Assessment.

With the Students

Day 1

  1. Provide the engineering and science Pre-Assessment to the students. 15 minutes should be sufficient for this assessment.
  2. Watch the What is Engineering? video.
    • Investigating Questions (may be done orally or in their lab books)
      • What is an engineer? (Potential answers: Someone who helps other people; a person who solves problems…connect this to the motivating activity you did identifying different potential problems in the world of Dr. Seuss.)
      • How can you be an engineer? (Potential answers: By asking questions and searching for answers; by creating solutions to problems.)

Day 2

  1. Read the book, Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss, as a class, individually, or in pairs or groups. You can also access the book as a digital copy.
  2. Access the Language Arts Questions, if desired. These can be used as a whole group, in small groups, or independently depending on your needs.
    • Investigating Questions (may be done orally or in their lab books)
      • Do you see anything related to engineering in this story? (Potential answers: Engineers built the castle; the King is making observations; they had to solve a problem.)

Day 3

A teacher stands behind a table of supplies, wearing a lab coat and a Dr. Seuss “Cat in the Hat” hat. She is holding her Lego kingdom. There are other Lego kingdoms on the table, along with the “rain” (A cup of water).
The principal investigator prepares her engineers to test their final designs.
copyright
Copyright © 2018 Crystal Tessmann, Kayla Bock, University of Florida RET

  1. Tell students that, unfortunately, the ending of the book never happened, and the kingdom is going to have to rely on engineers to solve the problem of the oobleck instead. Identify yourself as the principal investigator (PI) for this engineering project and explain to the students what a PI does in a research setting.
  2. Introduce the engineering design process. Brainstorm ways to be effective engineers based on the video from Day 1 and the engineering design process. Throughout the activity, refer to the stage of the engineering design process the class is in. (It may be helpful to post the Engineering Design Process visual aid somewhere in class.)
  3. Discuss lab notebook expectations. Show them the Lab Notebook Grading Criteria handout.
  4. Show the LEGO scene (a base plate with a little LEGO person, covered in oobleck). Show how rain (water squirted from a syringe) alone is not effective in removing the oobleck quickly.
  5. Discuss and define the problem using the LEGO scene along with the text and illustrations in the book. Write the problem on an anchor chart (a poster displayed on the wall with important concepts explained) and have them copy it into their notebooks. Throughout the activity, refer to what stage in the engineering design process we are in: Engineering design process step #1: Identify the Need.
    • Investigating Questions (may be done orally or in their lab books)
      • Why is the oobleck a problem? (Potential answers: It is covering everything in the Kingdom of Didd and sticking to everyone and everything.)
      • Why do we care? (Potential answers: Because it is hurting the people, making them sad, and hurting the animals.)
      • What is a PI? What do they do? (A principal investigator is the primary engineer in the lab. This person is in charge of funding and overseeing everything done in the lab.)

Day 4

  1. Introduce the substances available for collapsing the oobleck.
  2. Show and discuss the following BrainPop video on states of matter and prepare to discuss the differences between liquids and solids, as well as how the oobleck is a liquid-like solid.
  3. Give a definition for constraints. Hand out the Material Costs List. Instruct students to take the environmental and health constraints seriously, and let them know they will write a reflection on why they chose their different substances at the end. Explain the additional constraints, if any (such as the oobleck cannot be taken out of the room), and that they have 1,000 “Whodollars” to spend. Any left over money can be used for a Who-lebration (this can be determined by the teacher…they can use Whodollars to purchase movie time, candy, prizes, etc.). This will help to incentivize not spending all the money.  Engineering design process step #1: Identify the Constraints.
  4. Show them the Final Rubric so they know what they are working towards.
  5. Tell students they will soon be given access to samples of oobleck that were found in a ditch, to study in their “labs.” Students may give their lab groups a name if they wish.
  6. Introduce lab safety standards using these YouTube videos: Science lab safety by OHMS Science class videos or General Lab Safety by the Amoeba Sisters.
  7. Discuss making observations and how we will use our observations to do research. Students should be free to touch the oobleck with their gloved hands, smell it, manipulate it with a scoop spatula, and look at it with the naked eye as well as through a hand lens (using safety goggles of course). Discuss Boolean search terms so they know what terms to use during research. Direct students to use Kiddle to perform their research. Provide them with the Lab Notebook and Responsibilities Log.
  8. Provide students with scoop spatula, clear plastic jars or cosmetic containers, a sample of oobleck, gloves, safety goggles, hand lens, white paper, and paper towels.
  9. Allow students time to make observations and for them to search Kiddle for the oobleck using their search terms. Guide them through narrowing their results and ask them to restate their search terms. Have them take notes about what the substance might be and what it is probably not, based on their research and observations. If they discover what the substance actually is, have them try to research how to get rid of it. Engineering design process step #2: Research the Problem.
  10. Discuss findings as a class and discuss how they need to design a solution based on research and observations or just their best guess.
    • Investigating Questions (may be done orally or in their lab books)
      • Do you think engineers ever do research and not find what they are looking for? Explain.
      • Why do engineers do research? (Potential answers: So they don’t waste time doing the same work someone else has already done; to help them find their answers; to help them avoid mistakes.)
      • Does researching and not finding the answer have any benefits? (Potential answers: Yes, it can still get you closer to an answer.)
      • Why do engineers make observations? (Potential answers: Engineers need to know what already exists, and what happens when they try a solution.)
      • How is making an engineering observation different than making a scientific observation? How is it the same? (Potential answers: It is different because the end goal is to solve a problem; it is the same because it still requires all or some of the five sense and often measuring and observing tools.)
      • Why do we have safety rules? (Potential answers: Because things in the lab can be very dangerous.)
      • How do we use each of these tools? (Potential answers: To keep us safe, to measure substances, to make observations.)
      • As you look at these materials costs, are there any you aren’t willing to explore? (Potential answers: We don’t want to hurt animals, so we won’t be using the Fizza-Ma-Wizza-Ma-Dill Spit; Na-Nupp Dust is too expensive.)

Day 5

A male fifth grader sits at a table. He is writing in his design plan and has a copy of the material constraints next to him.
A student engineer writing on his design plan.
copyright
Copyright © 2018 Crystal Tessmann, Kayla Bock, University of Florida RET

  1. Introduce their remaining engineering laboratory tools and practice using them; this is especially important for the digital scale and syringes. Discuss milliliters and grams. Have students practice measuring substances and using the tare function to find the net mass.
  2. Review safety procedures.
  3. Show them the Design Plan Application sheet.
  4. Have them develop a plan for two ways to precipitate the oobleck. Have them submit it to the PI. Engineering design process steps #3 and #4: Imagine: Develop possible solutions and Plan: Select a promising solution.
    • Investigating Questions (may be done orally or in their lab books)
      • What are milliliters? Why do we use them? (Potential answers: A unit of volume; to measure how much liquid we have.)
      • What are grams? Why do we use them? (Potential answers: A unit of mass; to measure the mass of a substance; to measure how much of a solid we have.)
      • Why is it important to make a plan? (Potential answers: To organize our thoughts; to decide what materials we will needs; to help us manage our money constraints.)
      • Why do engineers submit design plans to a PI? (Potential answers: To have an expert take a look at them and provide feedback; to get permission from the person in charge of the study/in charge of funding the study.)
      • What do you do if you disagree with your lab mates about a design? (Potential answers: Talk about it calmly; compromise; ask the PI for help.)
      • What are you going to do if the PI doesn’t accept your design? (Potential answers: talk with my lab mates and make changes; try something new; ask for help.)
      • Is it okay to fail? What do engineers do when they fail? (Potential answers: Yes! Engineers keep trying or try something new.)

Day 6

A female fifth grader stands at a table. She is wearing protective gloves and safety glasses. The table contains scoopulas and NaNupp Dust in a white plastic bottle. Students are working behind her at their lab tables. A dialogue bubble states “Member of the Oobleck Catchers Lab.”
A student engineer ready to obtain her supplies for testing.
copyright
Copyright © 2018 Crystal Tessmann, Kayla Bock, University of Florida RET

  1. Allow them to begin testing and evaluating their designs using the substances provided, or alternatively have students revise their submissions and create new ones. Engineering design process steps #5, #6, and #7: Create: Build a prototype. Test and evaluate prototype. Improve: Redesign as needed.
    • Investigating Questions (may be done orally or in their lab books)
      • How effective was your design? (Potential answers: Awesome; Okay; It as a total failure; it changed the oobleck but made it harder.)
      • What adjustments do you need to make? (Potential answers: We need to try more of ___ substance; we need to try different substances; we want to see what will happen if we add __.)
      • Can you make improvements? (Yes!)
      • If it didn’t work, what did you learn? (We learned that we don’t want to use __; we learned that we definitely didn’t have enough ___.).

Day 7

  1. Continue working in labs using the substances to precipitate the oobleck. Engineering design process step #7: Improve: Redesign as needed.
  2. Have each lab select their most effective concoction and videotape a test.
  3. Have each student complete and individual reflection concerning why they chose the materials they did, and why they may have not been willing to try others. They will include how they think their purchase of different substances impacted the Kingdom of Didd.
    • Investigating Questions (may be done orally or in their lab books)
      • How effective was your design? (Potential answers: Awesome; Okay; It as a total failure; it changed the oobleck but made it harder.)
      • What adjustments do you need to make? (Potential answers: We need to try more of ___ substance; we need to try different substances; we want to see what will happen if we add __.)
      • Can you make improvements? (Potential answers: Yes!; maybe, but we like this one.)
      • If it didn’t work, what did you learn? (Potential Answers: We learned that we don’t want to use __; we learned that we definitely didn’t have enough ___; we learned we need to communicate better.)
      • Why did you choose this as your most effective design? (Potential answers: Because it collapsed the oobleck the best.)

Days 8-10

Two female fifth graders stand at the front of the classroom. The one on the left is speaking into a microphone. They have their poster presentation illuminated and hung on the board. The poster has pictures and writing, and is visually appealing. Other students sit and listen.
Two student engineers presenting their work to their class.
copyright
Copyright © 2018 Crystal Tessmann, Kayla Bock, University of Florida RET

  1. Have students make presentations, practice giving them, and ask them how they plan on sharing their work with the engineering community.
  2. This time can also be used for groups to continue revising their designs if they needed more time.
  3. Groups that finish early can begin rewriting and illustrating the ending of Bartholomew and the Oobleck with labs’ individual designs. They can visit Seussville.com to make themselves into characters if they would like, and these can be printed out as part of their illustrations.
    • Investigating Questions (may be done orally or in their lab books)
      • What will make this presentation credible to the engineering community? (Potential answers: It will include data and observations.)

Day 11

  1. Establish listening procedures, such as being quiet during the presentation, keeping eyes on the presenters, and sitting up.
  2. Students give presentations. Other students and the PI should give compliments and ask questions.
    • Investigating Questions (may be done orally or in their lab books)
      • What have you learned from listening to other engineers? (Potential answers: That we have a lot in common; that it is important to communicate; that we have to be careful and organized.)

Day 12

  1. Have students take their Post-Assessments.
  2. Have them continue their individual designs while you grade their post-assessments.
  3. Hand back graded pre and post assessments, discuss and correct.
  4. Hand back the Final Project Rubric.
  5. Celebrate their accomplishments as engineers. Reveal the true identity of the substances using the Substance Translation Document.

Vocabulary/Definitions

engineering design process: An iterative process that engineers use to solve problems.

gram: Metric unit of mass equal to one thousandth of a kilogram.

iteration: Repeating a process.

liquid: The state of matter with a definite volume, but not a definite shape.

microgel: Gel formed from a network of microscopic filaments of polymers—a type of plastic.

milliliter: Metric unit equal to one thousandth of a liter.

oobleck: Mixture of corn starch and water that exhibits non-Newtonian properties, named after the substance in Dr. Seuss' books.

precipitating: Condensing plastic chains that make up the microgel.

protocol: Rules for completing a procedure.

solid: The state of matter with a definite shape and volume.

tare: Setting a scale to measure at 0 when it already has a weight or object on it; in order to determine a net weight.

Assessment

Pre-Activity Assessment

Pre-Assessment: Conduct the Pre-Assessment, a seven question pre-assessment that addresses engineering, nature of science, and properties of matter. The first six questions are multiple choice. The last question is open-ended.

Activity Embedded Assessment

Design Plan/Application: The Design Plan Application sheet is in table form, and ask students to request materials, explain their procedure, and make a prediction about the outcome of their procedure. It has a place for the PI to accept it or provide other feedback.

Post-Activity Assessment

Post-Assessment: Conduct the Post-Assessment, which is identical to the pre-assessment, except it has one additional open-ended question: How have you behaved like an engineer during this project?

Investigating Questions

Refer to each day of the Procedure for these questions.

Safety Issues

  • All the substances are relatively safe, but none should be ingested, inhaled, or put in someone’s eye. Safety goggles help students realize what a laboratory feels like.

Troubleshooting Tips

  • Try precipitating a sample of oobleck (aloe vera gel) ahead of time with several of the substances mixed together so you can get a feel for how the activity works.
  • Establish procedures for when students need to ask you for help so that it is an organized activity and their frustrations are minimized.

Activity Extensions

Students can write a Dr. Seuss themed story about the engineering design process. Rain, fog, and snow are an important part of the story of Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Therefore, the water cycle could also be incorporated into this activity as an additional science component.

Activity Scaling

  • For lower grades, most of this can be accomplished as long as it is done with an adult. The language of the pre- and post-assessments should be changed to be a simpler reading level, or possibly limited to the open-ended questions.
  • For higher grades, this may not be engaging. If you feel that it is, then more independence can be allowed.

References

T. Bhattacharjee, S.M. Zehnder,K.G. Rowe, S. Jain, R.M. Nixon, W.G. Sawyer, T.E. Angelini (2015). Writing in the Granular Gel Medium, Science Advances, e1500655, 1-6, http://advances.sciencemag.org/

Contributors

Crystal Tessmann

Copyright

© 2019 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2018 University of Florida

Supporting Program

Multidisciplinary Research Experiences for Teachers of Elementary Grades, Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, University of Florida

Acknowledgements

This curriculum was based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under RET grant no. EEC 1711543— Engineering for Biology: Multidisciplinary Research Experiences for Teachers in Elementary Grades (MRET) through the College of Engineering at the University of Florida. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Special thanks to Hannah McCarthy, Kayla Sutcliff and Kayla Bock.

Last modified: May 10, 2019

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