Civil Engineering Lesson for Lakewood Students

Lakewood Elementary School has been undergoing major renovation and Sunnyvale School District’s Chief Operations Officer, Rob Smiley, had the idea of offering Lakewood students a “teachable moment”, figuring out how much concrete will be needed for the construction project at their school. Mr. Smiley then coordinated a meeting for Ericka Shoemaker from American Modular Systems (AMS is one of the companies working on the renovation project at Lakewood), Karen Currie, Lakewood’s instructional coach, and Lakewood principal, Pam Cheng. AMS simplified blueprints for students to use, the Sausal Construction superintendent helped support students’ visit to the footings as well as built a model of a cubic yard to help students understand and visualize the volume of a cubic yard, the unit by which concrete is bought for construction projects. Ms. Currie helped teachers conceptualize and plan the problem-solving activities and assisted in coordinating class visits to the site. Teachers used class time to teach and support students in collaborating on their research work, measurements and calculations.

Construction site at Lakewood School
Construction site at Lakewood School
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Construction site at Lakewood School.
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Students at construction site at Lakewood School
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Student presentation on October 1, 2014
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Student presentation on October 1, 2014
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Student presentation


After a few weeks of collaboration, on October 1, students presented results of their research, problem-solving and calculations of the amount of concrete needed for the construction project. Two 5th grade classes and one 4th grade class participated in this activity. Students from Mr. Davis’ and Ms Concepcion’s 5th grade classes and Ms Mumy’s 4th grade class worked in groups and shared their all-encompassing knowledge of concrete through presentations covering “The History of Concrete,” “Problem of the Month Step by Step”, explaining how they did their calculations, “Problem of the Month Technology”, and “Gen 7 and the Environment Impact on Learning.” About a dozen students were recognized as Project Managers and received a hard hat. Ms. Mumy’s class made cake as an added lesson on fluid cake batter turning into solid cake, just like concrete from the cement truck hardened after being poured.

Student presentations on October 1, 2014
Student presentations on October 1, 2014
Students received awards for outstanding work on the project.
Students received awards for outstanding work on the project.
Mrs. Mumy's class provided delicious snacks for everyone at the presentation.
Mrs. Mumy’s class provided delicious snacks for everyone at the presentation.

Mr Smiley, along with Assistant Superintendent, Mala Ahuja, attended the presentations, and were impressed with the students’ work!

Contributors: Nina Wong-Dobkin and Pam Chang, Principal at Lakewood School

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