Throughout the unit there has been an attempt to model the construction of the basic bridge types. By the end of the unit I would like to have students take on a bridge building project of their own. Hopefully, by the time we reach the conclusion of the unit the students would have built up some confidence in using materials and be undaunted by a building project.
After going through numerous ideas the advice of seminar participants seemed to be the best choice. They suggested that the building project should be somewhere in the neighborhood so the students could relate to the idea. I decided that the project would entail designing and building a bridge that would go from Long Wharf to Lighthouse. Both are prominent places in the city and most of the children have visited Lighthouse Park. We would be able to visit both sides of the river and the students would really be able to get a feel for the project.
I thought that it would be a good experience for students to work in groups. There would be four main jobs. The teacher would act as the representative of the client and would give out specifications for the bridge. The teacher would also be in charge of all inspections and in approving the finished bridge.
Each group would have a Head Supervisor who makes sure the project is running smoothly. If there were problems such as members not contributing to the project they would advise the teacher.
The group would plan and the Bridge Designer would draw a picture of the proposed bridge. The Contractor would be in charge of the actual building of the bridge, while the Project Superintendent would make sure that the bridge has the added touches necessary to make it fit into its setting like trees, plants, parks, or other forms of beautification.
Each group would also be asked to submit a name for their bridge. It could be named for a famous person past or present or some other appropriate name having to do with the areas being joined. Students might also consider naming the bridge after a student who they feel really put a lot of effort into the project.
The teacher would meet with each group and once a design was determined the group would not be allowed to change to a similar design used by another group. I would allow the finished bridge and its surroundings to be no more than 3' by 3' by 3'. I give it this proportion because some of the children may find it easier to work in a large scale.
They would use all kinds of materials from corrugated cardboard to construction paper, Popsicle sticks, toothpicks, wood scraps, paper towel, toilet paper rolls, and poster paint. They could also use wire, string, rope, tacks, glue, staples, as well as tape, and plaster.
I would not make it a true competition, but there would be a formal presentation of the bridges at which each group would explain their project: how and why they did it. They might also explain why they called the bridge the name they chose. This would be a great activity to invite parents and allow other classes to preview. Students enjoy the opportunity to show off their projects especially to family and friends. Each group would be given certificates, and as part of the festivities, perhaps we might just end the unit by taking inspiration from the Jack Prelutsky poem, and make ourselves some gigantic banana bridge splits!