Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Middle school teachers who are fortunate enough to have laser cutting machinery at their disposal are faced with figuring out how to incorporate the technology into meaningful lessons. Far beyond personalized engraved trinkets, laser systems can teach children skills that will benefit them in high school (and beyond), including organization and preparation. In addition, laser cutters let young adolescents use creativity while learning science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM).
The best way to kick off a unit study is with a fun, hands-on activity. Hands-on activities promote a love of learning and connect abstract concepts to the real world. The following are some lesson plan ideas for middle school teachers wanting to incorporate hands-on learning through laser cutting into their curricula.
Objective: Learn about different cultures through their folk art. Paper cutting is a popular art form for many cultures. For example, in China, paper cutting expresses moral principles, philosophies and aesthetic ideals. In Switzerland, the art of Scherenschnitt (which translates to “scissor cuts” in German) tells stories in silhouette; early designs featured landscapes of cows, goats and herdsmen moving the animals up to the mountain pastures and back. Polish papercutting, called Wycinanki, was traditionally done using sheep shears because they were often the only cutting instruments available.
Objective: Understand and apply the Pythagorean theorem. (This lesson meets Common Core Standards for Geometry.) Students can have fun with geometry by reviewing some of the elaborate wooden marquetry work done on old floors. The laser can cut these geometric shapes in wood veneers, to be assembled and glued into a tile that has practical value as a trivet, and students use the Pythagorean theorem to measure, cut and fit together the triangular pieces.
Objective: Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events or character types from myths or traditional stories. (This lesson meets Common Core Standards for Literature.) Laser cutters can be used to create all types of costumes, allowing students to “dress the part” when reading plays or novels aloud in class. Acting out in this way helps the text come alive. For instance, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” could be enhanced with the addition of a laser-cut bird costume.
Objective: Demonstrate simple engineering principles by building model bridges. Students can cut arches, trusses, brackets and other parts, and measure the load-bearing characteristics while learning about building prototypes. Models of various bridge types are cut by scanning diagrams and tracing them. A contest will determine which student or team model can bear the most weight before collapsing.
Using hands-on instruction, educators foster the 21st century skills that students need to be successful: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. Hands-on learning helps students retain information and allows them to feel the satisfaction of creation. Laser cutters help reinforce mathematical principles in every project created regardless of discipline. The happy byproduct is leaving students with a tangible sense of accomplishment.
Content sponsored by Epilog Laser: https://www.epiloglaser.com/gs-try-engineering/.