December 4, 2010

weaponry building: cross-curricular studies!

Hannah Jane's on-line school had an optional lesson tacked on to the end of her history class yesterday that involved building a model catapult from cardboard scraps and a spoon.  Cute, I thought, but not entirely exciting.  Not nearly dangerous enough!  LOL!  You need to do something a little over the top once in a while to get their attention.  Like the crossbows we made back while we studied Constantine that could have actually done some damage.  That got 'em excited!  So I spent a little time browsing youtube (seriously, is there anything you can't do with youtube?  I'm pretty sure I could get myself to the moon if I watched enough tutorials!) for catapult building tutorials.  In my mind, this would be a cross curricular wonderland with predictions, measurements, history, engineering, data collecting and therefore organizational skills, etc. Rarely does reality look anything like what I envision, but this was one of those days!  School success!!! 

I found these demonstrations that I think are from a book called Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Now who isn't at least a little interested in that?  Huh?

This morning we popped into our friendly, neighborhood Wal-Mart to pick up a few supplies.  The best part of these weapons is that you're not buying anything that you won't end up using.  Mostly pencils, and what home schooler doesn't need a thousand of those anyway?  The traditional catapult was built with popsicle sticks, which were surprisingly expensive!!!  Why in the world is a pack of wooden sticks more expensive than a pack of pencils or even a pack of batteries?  Seriously?  I can't figure it out.  Anyway, we made some modifications to use even more pencils instead of the oddly pricey popsicle sticks.

Everyone got involved in the building.  And when things got complicated enough that only Hannah Jane and I were able to maneuver, the boys used the tools we'd gathered to make their own random weapons that actually shot things.  They were so proud of themselves!  Hunter kept saying, "I can't believe I just thought this up in my brain and it actually works!"  I must say, regardless of how you feel about boys and weapon toys, it's fabulous to watch a kids who generally shies away from anything structured or school oriented really get in there and tinker, build, find success, and then gush over himself.  Hunter really won my heart with his beaming pride in during this activity.

Okay.  I ramble.  Sorry.  Here we go!  We ultimately made a traditional, a Viking, and a Trebuchet catapult using only the links associated with each as a model.  Some were a little more obvious than others, but I think we did a bang up job with as little as we had to work with.  There are, of course kits you can buy for each of these things if you look hard enough, but that's just not my style!

Once everything was built, we made a tape line at one end of the kitchen bar and got our data recording sheet ready.  Hannah Jane made predictions about which structure would launch things the farthest, and whether a marshmallow or almond would go farther on average.

With everything ready, we began launching!

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