Cycle 4 – Middle Ages

During Term 1, the Middle School students were posed an inquiry question focused on the ‘Middle Ages’. Throughout Cultural Studies lessons, students learnt about European history and how some of the events that took place have impacted upon the way we live today. Our Science focus tied in with this, looking at a common weapon of warfare during that time, the catapult. During physical science lessons the students learnt about moving parts, forces, energy and levers. The term long focus finished with students given the task to make a working catapult.

The students were deliberately not given much criteria of how to make the catapult work. The only requirements were that, they were not allowed to exert the force required to make their object move, and whatever they chose to propel had to travel at least one metre.

Due to the limited instruction, the students were given four weeks to construct their working model. They had to research the type of catapult they wanted to build, then resource readily available materials to make their ideas come to life. I had to constantly continue to educate the students as to principles behind making parts move, as well as angles of elevation and lever ratios, but was very careful to not intervene, and allowed the students’ inquisitive minds to keep problem solving.

The Middle School staff were thrilled to see the students approach the challenge with such dedication. We had such a wide variety of catapults; some made from wood, others from pencils and pop sticks, to one that was made with a heavy duty spring with welded components. One of the brilliant things to come from this project was our group’s ability to come together and help each other. It was a great display of how well Maria Montessori’s idea of vertically grouped classrooms benefits individual learning.

The event culminated with a showcase of the catapults in the last week of Term. Heather and Noel joined us in the test launch. It was great to see the overwhelming success of the student projects with some great personal satisfaction after hard work. We had a wide range of results with a couple of catapults launching around twenty five metres. We were very happy with what they had achieved. Well done, Cycle 4.

James