A Science Unit

Mrs. Dawn Hester 5th grade teacher

Fairland Home Page

General Structure Unit Description

This structures unit focused on Learning Experiences from the Education Development Center, Inc. Students first explored structures by taking a tour of their school and making observations about various parts of the building.
Next, they were challenged to make a tall structure using only straws and paperclips. Students tested the strength of their straw structures by seeing how much weight each could hold. This lead to a discussion of live load versus dead load.
After this students explored the structural components beams, columns, and diagonal supports using index cards. They tested beams and columns made from a variety of shapes to see which shape was the strongest.
Finally, students were challenged to build a structure using index cards and masking tape that would be able to hold a lot of weight. They used their knowledge of strong beams and columns to make sturdy structures. This activity was followed by a discussion of the forces of tension and compression.

The unit culminated with a study of cathedrals. We visited the Washington National Cathedral and wrote our own tour guide using digital pictures that were taken during our tour.

Which beam is strongest?

Index Card Structures

A Gallery of Gargoyles

Using the Flex Cam to share science books with students

Our Virtual Tour of Washington National Cathedral

This page is still under construction. We will continue to add information as the students do other projects related to this topic.
This page is maintained by Mary O'Haver, Fairland Elementary School, and Prof. Thomas O'Haver , University of Maryland. Comments, suggestions and questions should be directed to Dawn Hester at, Mary O'Haver at or Prof. O'Haver at
This page was first created on March 8,1998
Last updated March 23, 1998