Using recycled materials and enough imagination to fill a pot o’ gold, Grade 4 students at Grant D. Morse Elementary School celebrated National Engineer’s Month and St. Patrick’s Day simultaneously with their annual Leprechaun Trap Museum.
The culmination of a month-long science unit on simple machines, the museum offered a colorful display of devices so creative they would make real-life scientists turn green with envy.
To help the students grasp the Common Core-required concepts of force and motion and how they’re created by objects like wheels, levers, and pulleys, Grade 4 teachers Rebecca Mulford and Denise Dudzic asked students to make posters about simple machines and then seek out some everyday ones in a scavenger hunt around the school. To end the unit, the students were charged with using at least four simple machines in a device that would capture unwary leprechauns.
Using everything from thread spools, pinwheels, and water bottles to fishing gear, LEGOs, and pliers, the young engineers created traps that were as unique as the colors of the rainbow.
Student Isabella Raviner created an intricate mechanism that eventually launched the leprechaun from a Styrofoam platform, with someone standing nearby to catch it in a goldfish net. Karissa Heiss appealed to the leprechaun’s natural playfulness, tempting him to try out a see-saw that triggered a bucket to come down on top of him.
“It’s a fun project,” said Mulford, who explained that students were urged to use recycled materials and families were encouraged to get involved in making the traps. Students were also asked to write an essay that explained how their trap worked.
Family, friends, and students in other grades were invited to view the traps in the school cafeteria, and the event proved to be more popular than a four-leaf clover.
“I liked seeing all the cool things and how they worked,” Grade 1 student Zachary Feinberg said after his trip through the exhibit. Asked if he thought any of the traps could really work, he replied, “A few of them, I bet they would.”
When he reaches Grade 4 in a few years, Zachary hopes to make his own trap out of wood because, he says, it’s “super strong.”
Mulford said the project was a hit because it’s something every child can do.
“It ties in with the Common Core but it’s great that they get to express that creativity,” she said. “It’s not just pen and paper.”