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Showcasing, Raeann Edwards and Junk Drawer Wars

"I got the idea to do Junk Drawer Wars when discussing with my husband and son a TLC television show Junkyard Wars," Raeann Edwards recalled. "My son thought it would be just 'so cool' to be on the show. I thought it would be 'so cool' to do a classroom version!"

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Edwards, a teacher of gifted and talented students in grades 6-8 at North Pole Middle School in North Pole, Alaska, designed a lesson in which teams of students each created a vehicle that could travel at least ten feet and deposit ping-pong balls into a box 4 inches high. Each team was permitted to use helpful online and print resources, and to select from materials in junk boxes. The students were supplied with tape, hot glue, white glue, screws, nuts, bolts, batteries, and tools. They even dismantled computers and harvested useful parts!

"My students remained very engaged during the entire project," Edwards told Education World. "Some students who normally disliked working in groups even stepped up and became leaders. The students were always very excited to come to class, and went straight to work when they arrived.

"This was also a project many children talked about at home," Edwards added. "Several students came back to class with ideas they had gotten from parents or friends."

Edwards recommends that teachers stock up on duct tape and glue sticks as well as "good junk" before implementing this activity. Another important tip is to emphasize process, not product, she said. "Some students got discouraged when their vehicle wasn't functioning properly. They kept worrying that if they didn't win the competition portion, they would fail. Keep telling kids that what they do to solve the problem is what counts, even if the vehicle itself is a failure."

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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