The Pull Toy Project
Foothill Knolls STEM Academy of Innovation: Upland, CA | Designing Teachers: Ashley Louis and Kim Laird

In the Pull Toy project, students created a pull toy to exhibit during our Annual Pull Toy Parade. The pull toy needed to be designed so that a gear mechanism attached to the wheels would make another part of the pull toy move (such as a wagging tail, flapping wings, or a nodding head). As a TK-8 school, our 8th-grade students’ target audience was the TK-3rd-grade students. During this project, the students had to learn about many different gear mechanisms.

Essential Question: How do you make a toy for elementary students using gear mechanisms to transfer energy?

Final Products:

  • A pull toy designed so that a gear mechanism attached to the wheels would make another part of the pull toy move (such as a wagging tail, flapping wings, or a nodding head).
  • A “trading card” with information about the pull toy
  • A one-page reflection on the process

Key Academic Skills and Content: The “Design Thinking” process; gear mechanisms including gear train with idler, cam and follower, crank and slider,  belt drive, worm and wheel, rack and pinion, bevel, and chain drive; expository writing.

Suggested duration: 6 weeks

 

 

Created with the support of the California Department of Education California Career Pathways Trust


Final Products: What the Students Made
Final Products: What the Students Made

In this project, students were responsible for making the following:

  • A pull toy designed so that a gear mechanism attached to the wheels would make another part of the pull toy move (such as a wagging tail, flapping wings, or a nodding head).
  • A “trading card” with information about the pull toy
  • A one-page reflection on the process
Core Practice 1: Design Thinking
Core Practice 1: Design Thinking

Throughout the Pull Toy Project, we use the Design Thinking Process to guide the students through their creations.  It was very important for us to begin with Empathy in the design process. It not only helps with student engagement, but it also leads to quality work because it gives each student a purpose for their project.  Our 8th graders met with second graders to interview them about what types of toys they would like to see in the parade, and then later on in the design process to receive feedback on their pull toys before they made revisions.

Core Practice 2: Productive Struggle
Core Practice 2: Productive Struggle

Allowing our students to learn through productive struggle has given our students the opportunity to become better problem solvers and more creative thinkers. When we transitioned from more traditional teaching styles to project-based learning, we had to adjust our expectations for direct instruction. Instead of spending extended time front-loading vocabulary and demonstrating the builds step-by-step, we give minimal instruction and allow the students to dive right in. We give mini-lessons and “just in time” support to groups throughout the project. This allows those with more advanced skills to advance and gives us time to diversify our instruction for the varying needs in our classes.

Core Practice 3: Authentic Audience
Core Practice 3: Authentic Audience

We wanted to ensure that our students had an authentic audience to share their final products with. Since 7th and 8th grade were only recently added to our site, we also wanted to strengthen the connection between our elementary and middle school students. The experience of connecting with younger students to build empathy for them and to learn from their expertise gave our students the best possible motivation to do their finest work and to meet their deadlines.

 

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