Investigating Bridges

Our study of bridges has continued into this week and is moving forward at full steam! It has been very exciting to see the passion our class has for learning about these structures. Throughout most of Free Choice friends can be found building bridges with various materials, drawing pictures and writing about bridges, and looking through books to learn more about bridges.

Adam, Naisha, and Emilia worked together to build a beam bridge with Lincoln Logs.
Brayden built "The Golden Gate Bridge" using a book as a model for his design.
Brayden and Lucas like to use our nonfiction books about bridges for inspiration in their building.
Clayton, Will, and Lucas took turns being the "leader" to make this bridge happen. "When you are the leader you get to tell everyone where the blocks need to go so the bridge doesn't fall," Clayton explained to me.

In one of the books we read this week, we learned about the role of an engineer and an architect in creating bridges. All week, the kids have been using paper to make plans for their bridges before they build them. "Yeah! We are the architects and other people can be the engineers!" Grace explained to me.

"Emilia is the architect today. She is telling me how to make the bridge and I am making it!" Naisha was very excited about their defined roles in building.

In meeting this week, we have been learning about famous bridges around the world. We started the week by looking at the Akashi Kyoko Bridge in Japan, which is the world's longest suspension bridge. I found a short video that someone shot as they drove across the bridge. We gathered on the carpet to watch together!

The Akashi Kyoko Bridge during daylight and at night.

Something our friends noticed during the video was the lights on top of the bridge. "What are those lights for?" Clayton asked the group. "I think they're for the cars, so they can see," David answered him. "Or I know!" Aiden shouted, "they're for airplanes so they don't crash into the cables!" Ever since this moment, most of our models and drawings of bridges have included small lights on top, just in case an airplane or a helicopter is flying by.

We also learned about the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway, which is considered the world's longest beam bridge at 23 miles long. We watched a Google Earth video of a car driving across the bridge. The kids were surprised when they realized that the bridge is so long they couldn't see the other end of the bridge from its start! "It would take 200 hours to drive across it?" Lucas asked. I suggested perhaps more like a half hour. We all agreed that no matter what, it is the longest bridge any of us had ever seen! "You mean it's longer than even the Golden Gate Bridge?" Aiden clarified.

The Lake Ponchartrain Causeway in Louisiana.

Our discussion of famous bridges around the world was also enriched by the examples of bridges that our friends have been finding around the South Bend area. Almost everyone has contributed a photo of a bridge they have found. We have been using them at meeting to compare and contrast different features of various bridges. The kids always want to find where the supports are and see if the bridge has any lights or decorative elements.

Molly and Grace shared pictures with us of bridges they've found this week.

After a friend shared their photo with us, we worked together to decide which type of bridge it was and hung the photo in the appropriate category. We have realized that beam bridges seem to be the most common type of bridge that we encounter on a daily basis.

Our collection of bridges, thus far.

In Art Class this week, our friends worked with Mrs. Loyd to create a truss bridge and a beam bridge. They added cars and a railroad on top. Everyone contributed to some part of this project, so it is very special to us!

Naisha, Grace, and Emilia worked on labels for our project and we have proudly hung them up in our classroom windows!

On Monday, Ethan told me he wanted to write a book. At first, he said it would be about Star Wars and I challenged him to write about something new instead. "Write about something you know a lot about. Something that you are an expert about!" I told him. "I know! I will write everything I know about bridges!" he said as he hurried to get his paper and markers. It took him three days, but our class was pretty impressed when he shared his finished product with us!

"Bridges" by Ethan.

During workshop this week the kids played with straws. This was an open ended activity, but many announced right away that they wanted to try to make a bridge!

Clayton and Grace decided to help each other when they realized that they needed more than two hands to hold everything together and make sure it was attached securely.

As you can see, each child is exploring this topic in his/her own way, but is deeply engaged in this study. This week I've heard requests for field trips to California, Japan, and France to check out some of the bridges in our "10 Most Amazing Bridges" book. I might have broken some hearts when I told the kids those places were all too far for us to travel during school! "Okay, I think I'll just ask my mom to take me!" Aiden told us.

Thank you for sending in bridge pictures. The kids LOVE the opportunity to share them with their friends. If you come across more, feel free to keep sending them!

Created By
Randilyn Bowling


Created with images by lawdawg1 - "Iconic Golden Gate Bridge" • hktang - "明石海峡大橋" • hwat - "Akashi Kaikyo Bridge"

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