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Windmill project a lesson in many disciplines for Harriet Bishop students

Students in fifth grade science classes at Harriet Bishop Elementary School in Savage designed and then created windmills after learning about the advantages and disadvantages of renewable and non-renewable resources.

In this engineering project, students used a virtual website to learn about variables like the shape, number and pitch of windmill blades and how they can change the effectiveness of a windmill. Students used what they learned about revolutions per minute and how that translates into kilowatts per hour to build and test their own designs using their own "wind power" to turn their windmills.

"Effectiveness was measured by counting the number of paperclips their windmill could lift in one big breath," said Cheri Warmka, science specialist. "The current school record is 42 paperclips!"

Projects like this weave together standards from different subjects. The concepts of surface area, friction and weight come into play when designing a windmill. Some students even researched how much it costs to build a real windmill and how long it would take to realize a return on their investment if they did.

"Current events are also easily woven into science lessons," said Warmka. "Discussing news stories about the pros and cons of oil fracking in North Dakota for example, and how that affects the price of gasoline at the pump makes students realize that what they're learning about in school reaches far beyond the classroom."

Posted: Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - 11:53