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May 23, 2019

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During the 2018-2019 school year, in collaboration with the Brookings School District, South Dakota State University, and Children’s Museum of South Dakota, different school-aged children visited the Children’s Museum in a learning lab experience to spend time wondering how they could help solve real-world problems.

When students from Dakota Prairie Elementary in Brookings, SD visited the Children’s Museum of South Dakota, they noticed the sound and feel of the air as it rushed through the tubes in the Airway Adventure exhibit. The students, Kindergarteners through Third Graders, were at the museum as part of the Innovation Learning Lab and were exploring this exhibit as they participated in Problem-Based Learning.

They also noticed that some of the materials got stuck in the tubes. Not because the air had been diverted to other tubes, but rather because the items created a clog in the tubes and the air alone could not push them out.

Therein lies the problem that the students were asked to solve. What causes the clogs in the tubes? What materials can we use that are engaging to watch fly through the tubes without creating clogs? Do some materials work best with other materials? These were all questions that the students had to investigate and test.

The students discovered that some materials were too light to go through tubes on their own. Some were too large and got stuck too often. Others would go through the tubes but were too hard to see as they flew. Their trials involved objects such as: ping pong balls, parachutes, fox tails, pool noodles, cotton balls, marshmallows, foam baseball, practice golf balls, and origami frogs, among other things!

After their research, the students presented museum staff and their peers with a list of items that worked well in the tubes, a list of objects that posed problems in the tubes, and a list of pieces that worked in some cases and did not work in others.

The museum staff will now be able to use the students’ research and advice to provide guests with a variety of objects to use in the Airway Adventure exhibit and allow the guests opportunities to test new objects out on their own!

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