The Egg Drop
This rich example includes both a description of teaching and an assessment task. Mr. S. has students engage in a full design activity, designing and testing a container that can prevent an egg from breaking when dropped. The technology activity was preceded by a science unit on force and motion so that students were able to use their understanding of science in the design process. He has carefully considered commercially prepared versions of this activity but modified them to create one based on his experiences and the needs of the students. He has considered the safety of the students. The use of the videotape of former students not only provides a local context for the activity, but provides students with ideas about the designs that work and do not work. After the enjoyable day, Mr. S. requires students to reflect on what they have learned and apply it to a new, but similar problem.
[This example highlights some elements of all of the Teaching Standards; Assessment Standard A; 5-8 Content Standards B and E; Program Standard D; and System Standard D.]
As Mr. S. reviewed his syllabus for the year, he saw the next unit and smiled. On Monday they would begin the ''Egg Drop"—the students, working in teams, would design a container for an uncooked egg. The time was right. During the period between the winter break and the new semester, the students had focused on the similarities and differences between science and technology. At the beginning of the second semester the students had completed activities and engaged in discussions until they demonstrated an adequate understanding of force, motion, gravity and acceleration. Now it was time to bring the knowledge of science principles to a design problem. The problem was to design a container that could be dropped from the second floor balcony without breaking the egg.
Some variation of the egg drop activity was found in just about every middle school science book that Mr. S. had ever seen. But over the years he had come to know what worked and what didn't, where to anticipate the students would have difficulties, and just how to phrase questions and challenges the students could respond to without being overwhelmed. He had developed some aspects of the unit that were special to him and to the students in Belle Vue Middle School. He knew when he introduced the idea that at least one student would have a tale to tell about dropping a carton of eggs when carrying groceries home from the store or when removing the carton from the refrigerator. While dropping eggs from the balcony was not part of the every day experience of the students, dropping things and having them break was.
On Monday, he would set the challenge, the constraints, and the schedule. They would begin with a whole class review of what the students knew about force, acceleration, and gravity and the design principles. He would have someone write these on a chart that they could hang on the wall during the unit. Next they would identify things they had seen fall gently without breaking and about the size, shape, material, and construction of these items. Finally he would tell the students the constraints: teams would be made up of three students each; materials would be limited to the 'stuff' available on the work table; teams would have to show him a sketch before they began building their container; they would have to conduct at least two trials with their container—one with a plastic egg and one