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Connecting STEM and American History Through Water Wheels February 12, 2014

Posted by MrMusselman in Science Center, Student Work.
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water wheel 2014

Across all of the Burlington elementary schools, third graders visit the Boott Cotton Mills at Lowell National Historic Park as a keystone piece of their social studies curriculum. While there the students learn about the conditions that made Lowell such a great place to cradle the American industrial revolution and get a chance to see and feel what living in and around the mills at the time would have been like.

With Social Studies and Science sharing a block of time, the teachers at the Pine Glen school used the Lowell Mills experience to develop a relevant engineering challenge for their students: constructing water wheels that work!

In the week following the students trip to the Mills, Mr. Musselman from the Science Center introduced the challenge by sharing a short video of the simple machines at work in the Boott Mills and a brief presentation explaining how they were connected to a system of canals and water wheels beneath the mills. The following days were spent using the design process in to accomplish the students engineering goals of developing a water wheel that would rotate many times under the flow of a two-liter bottle of water.

Students impressed with a variety of water wheel designs, some that worked better than others. While students worked independently to create their first water wheel “prototype,” students watched one another’s test runs to glean valuable knowledge and experience about which design flaws to avoid, and which to emulate in their own water wheel improvements.

Many of the products were held on to and stored by the Science Center to use during this year’s National Science Teacher Association’s conference in Boston where Mrs. Jane Lynch, Mr. Musselman and a few Pine Glen students will be sharing their experience with fellow science teachers from across the state and country as they challenge themselves to build water wheels of their own and bring the experience back to their classrooms!

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