Pinball Wizards in 5th Grade

Parker teachers are always looking for ways to make their curriculum relevant and engaging for their students. In collaboration with the 5th grade teaching team, members of Parker’s Integrated Learning and Information Sciences Department recently orchestrated a multidisciplinary project that connected the class’s recent outdoor education experience at Lorado Taft with themes in the book The Knight in Rusty Armor and homemade pinball machines—a perfect combination!

The Knight in Rusty Armor tells the story of a knight obsessed with himself, so much so that he spends all his time in his armor and completely alienates his family. When he discovers that he cannot take his armor off, he sets out to find Merlin the wizard for help. After a close reading of this text, students worked in groups of three to map out the book’s themes and make connections with challenges they faced during their outdoor education experience at Lorado Taft.

Next, each group had to use a PinBox 3000 kit to plan, design and build a working cardboard pinball machine. To accomplish this task, students had to follow written directions and instructional videos to ensure the machine worked.

Students then had to infuse their creation with their theme and make it clearly visible. For this step, students designed and customized their machines to highlight their group’s theme using soft maker materials like paints, felt and yarn as well as hard maker materials, such as 3D printing, laser cutting, paper circuits with LED lights, LittleBits circuits and other motors for motion. Students designed, tested and redesigned their pinball machine settings to verify that the game worked as they had envisioned in their original designs.

As a final step, the 5th grade teachers orchestrated an opportunity for the three homeroom classes to try their peers’ creations and field feedback from other users to learn what worked for their machines and what they might consider adding or changing to improve their games.

Click here for photos from this project.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.