Fifth-grade students at F.E. Bellows Elementary School – who have been meticulously researching and studying bridge construction – collaborated with their peers to build their own original bridges out of newspapers and masking tape.
“Working together, working hard and learning are all part of a lifelong process that started when they were toddlers building with blocks,” said William McKeon, the library media specialist at the school, who spearheaded the project. “The main objective of the Bridge Building Project was to allow students to collaborate with each other within an academic framework.”
The students were challenged to use no more than eight pounds of newspaper and between one and two rolls of masking tape to build their bridges, which were required to span an open area of 30 or more inches between two chairs and hold at least 100 pounds of weight. In addition, the students used their math skills to budget for materials and understand how geometry and structure-building are connected.
“Planning for job choices, budgeting for materials and collaborating with partners makes bridge building a real-world exercise,” McKeon said.
McKeon said that many of the successful bridges incorporated tubular columns that supported the load. Fifth-graders Alejandro Cadarso, Ella Sperling and Ruby Williams, whose design successfully supported the required 100-pound weight, said they enjoyed working together.
“It’s difficult to get the bridge to sustain a lot of weight on it, so you have to put all the pillars underneath in the right position,” said Sperling, who got to stand on top of the bridge for a few seconds. “We tried to design it so it’s even and nothing slides out. We made all of the columns the same size.”