An Attempt at Engineering and Design

Last week, the students of 4A were given a task: design and build a hovercraft with a partner using limited materials. After drawing out plans on Tuesday, students began building their designs on Thursday. The class began buzzing with activity as students brought their designs to life and tested them out. Then they tinkered and tested some more. And again. And again.

Eventually, the building time expired and presentation time began. Each group explained their thought process to the class and tested their hovercrafts out. One failed attempt after another left us all wondering what went wrong.

In the end, we learned that scientists don’t always get it right on their first attempt and that failure is a valuable learning tool.

After it was all said and done, I asked the students a few questions. First, “Before we started building our hovercrafts, how many of you were confident that your design would be successful?” Almost everyone raised their hand, many with sheepish grins on their faces. Then, “If you were given another opportunity to build a hovercraft, how many of you think your second attempt would be successful?” Again, almost everyone raised their hand, many with budding confidence. They were already thinking about what they would do differently if given a second chance. It looks like I might just have to give them that second chance.

Check out the video. Who knew failing could be so fun?

Building Hovercrafts in Fourth Grade Science Class. from Kevin Baumbach on Vimeo.

BFG Field Trip (UPDATE)

On Friday, the fourth grade went to the NW Children’s Theater to see a performance of The BFG. The actors and crew put on a very entertaining show and it was a fun way for our class to close out the week. I took a few pictures to share with everyone. Photography was not allowed during the performance so unfortunately I’m not able to share any pictures of the creative costumes, masks, scenery, and images from the show. I was, however, able to capture some of the fun and excitement that went down on Friday.

Special thanks to Ms. Mason for organizing the field trip. Say thank you to her if you get the chance.

UPDATE: Thanks to Roger McHayle for providing a few more photos from the trip.20121020-182328.jpg20121020-182312.jpg20121020-182259.jpg20121020-182356.jpg20121020-182416.jpg















Simple Math App


For those wanting extra practice with basic math facts, I have a good app for you. I wanted to pass along this free, simple, helpful app called FlashToPass (it can be found in the App Store). Check it out.


I know this is available for the iPhone and iPad, but I am not sure about Android. Any feedback on that would be welcome,

Working Together to Understand “Borrowing”


Yesterday, the students of 4A were given a subtraction problem. With a partner, their task was to display their method of problem solving in four ways: 1) with base-ten pieces, 2) by drawing a picture, 3) by writing words, and 4) traditional arithmetic. The idea was to actually see what happens when you “borrow” while doing a subtraction problem rather than just following a process, thus gaining a deeper understanding of subtraction.

As I walked around the room and eavesdropped on conversations, I became more and more impressed with each group I watched. They became completely engaged in their learning; communicating their thinking with their partner and working through struggles.

I was blown away. This level of independent thinking and cooperative learning doesn’t normally happen this early in the school year. I was so proud of what the group accomplished.

Here is a sampling of some of the learning that took place:

Understanding Subtraction from Kevin Baumbach on Vimeo.

What is Khan Academy?

If you haven’t noticed, I have included a few “Helpful Links” on the site. One of those links is to the Khan Academy, whose goal is to provide “a free, world-class education for anyone everywhere.” I recommend Khan Academy to my students looking for extra work in math (other categories tend to be higher level – math begins at basic arithmetic). Whether you are struggling or excelling, Khan Academy is a great place to practice skills and push yourself to a higher level of understanding.

It’s very simple. You choose a category, watch a tutorial video, and practice problems until you prove your proficiency in that area. To learn more about how it works, feel free to watch Salman Khan explain Khan Academy at TED 2011.