Taking it further: student investigations build on empathy and reflection

December 2017. Intermediate students felt empowered by team investigations into local transport topics of their choice.

Christchurch South Intermediate School students.

A zippy video features stop-motion titles made with Scrabble tiles, and girls smashing various materials with a hammer.

The bits with the hammer are all about testing a science hypothesis that aluminium would be a more durable material to use when making petrol tanks. The video shows how students can communicate in creative ways – while also demonstrating their grasp of curriculum knowledge and skills.

Made by Leah, Hermione and Mya, all Year 8 students at Christchurch South Intermediate School, the video was commended in the Future Transport Competition, run by the NZ Transport Agency.

Hermione says the trio enjoyed applying their school learning to a real-life context.

“Our original idea was to invent a new eco-friendly type of petrol. But after we considered our constraints we decided to limit the number of petrol tank explosions by inventing a safer petrol tank.”

The students researched the effects of petrol spills, such as from car crashes, and tested the effects of fire, force and absorption on aluminium to figure if it could be safer than current petrol tank materials.

Leah and Hermione

Leah: “Doing the project made us realise that these problems do exist and that what we’re learning is not just classwork. We know now that we can go further, not just doing what the teacher has planned for us at school but going out and doing other things to make the project better.”

Hermione says the project involved thinking outside the box.

“We were determined to make this a really great project and one that we could remember, so we also worked outside of school to get the best result possible. Now we know we can do that, we can take it further along in our education.”

Desire to support safer cycling

Sam, Jessie and Ciaran.

Another team – Ciaran, Sam and Jessie – were keen to design safety enhancements for urban cycleways.

Their innovative idea is for a sensor-activated kerb that runs along the length of the cycleway, keeping cyclists separated from traffic in adjacent lanes. When drivers need to turn into a driveway, they slow down, press a button in their car and a section of the kerb lowers into the ground.

It’s an idea born of the student’s own observations on the streets of the city. They report seeing cars and cycles getting close to each other.

“Cars are getting really close to the bike lanes which can be a hazard if they drift sideways,” says Ciaran.

“The cyclists are the least protected too,” says Sam.

“We did a 3D model which we presented to the class to show how it could work, and how it could be practical and realistic in everyday life,” says Jessie.

“I made a poster for our group,” says Sam.

“And I made a slideshow about the problems and what’s happening,” says Ciaran.