## Using Angry Birds to teach math, history and science

### Tags: angry birds, catapult, energy, force, History, inquiry, inventions, learning, Math, measurement, middle ages, myth busters, parabola, projectile motion, Science, speed, trajectory, velocity

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This post has been generously sponsored by iTutorMaths - GCSE Maths Tutors in the UK

Yesterday instead of dutifully writing a blog post, I was having fun building catapults with kids.  I was playing with a transdisciplinary lesson using Angry Birds as my inspiration.  Yes, you read correctly-Angry Birds.

It doesn’t seem to matter what age group or demographic that I talk to, kids (and adults) everywhere are fans of Angry Birds. As I was playing around with Angry Birds (yep I’m a fan too), I started thinking about all of the learning that could be happening.  I have watched a two year old tell an older sister that “you have to pull down to go up higher”.  I have watched as kids master this game through trial and error.  Being the teacher that I am, I started dreaming up a transdisciplinary lesson with Angry Birds as the base.

I happened to be writing an inquiry lesson that has students look at inventions throughout time and thought: the catapult-that is an invention that has technology and concepts that are used even today.  This is one of those inspirational moments that comes when you are drifting off to sleep and has you frantically searching for paper and pen to record as fast as the ideas come.  So what did I do? I got myself out of bed and went to work sketching out a super awesome plan.

Here is the embedded learning that I came up with:

• Primary Math: positional math language (above, below, left, right, bottom, biggest, smallest), measurement (distance), angles, shapes
• Intermediate Math: parabolas, velocity, angels, trajectory, acceleration, quadratic formulas
• Science: simple machines (lever), mechanics, force, energy, velocity/speed
• History: history of the catapult, changes made to catapult technology throughout history, modern-day inventions that use this technology
• Music: Tie in with history, what music was popular in the middle ages when catapults were invented (give students a feel for the culture of the time).
• Art: Tie in with history, what era of art was happening during the middle ages when catapults were invented (give students a feel for the culture of the time).
• Language Arts: reflection writing, reading text for information (non-fiction books and websites)
• Learning: application of Angry Birds on students as learners, application of building a catapult on students as learners (I can’t claim this one it was all @stumpteacher with this blog post).

I set up 3 stations of learning and exploration.   In the first station students found Angry Birds on the iPads (now also available on the Internet in Chrome here), guiding questions, sticky notes and books on the history of catapults and simple machines.  Guiding questions were on chart paper and invited kids to join in the question asking by jotting down their own “wonders” on sticky notes and adding them to the chart questions.  At this station students “tested” Angry Birds and were asked to consider energy, force, acceleration, speed, angle and distance as they played.  Kids had fun with this, I anticipated that they would stick strictly to the  iPad and Angry birds but all of the kids looked through the books at some point.  There was a lot of talk about strategy, what they noticed about angle and how far to pull back on the different levels to get the bird to reach the target.

At Station 2 students found random materials that they could use to build their own catapult.  We included small blocks of wood, duct tape, string, rubber bands, paper clips, plastic cups, smaller dixie cups, paint stir sticks, popsicle sticks, plastic silverware,  markers, empty toilet paper rolls, clothes pins and of course the marshmallow to launch.  Students colored their marshmallow with sharpies to look like an Angry Bird (if doing this with kindergarten, be sure to mention that as soon as the marshmallow is colored, it is no longer food…we had a couple who were begging to eat the colored mallow!).  Next, students went to work constructing their catapults.  We offered no instructions and just let them go to town.  There was a lot of trial and error but all of the kids (kindergarten through eighth grade) made working catapults.  Students tested their catapult and experimented with speed, distance, accuracy, fulcrum, angle and force.  After launching the marshmallow bird they measured for distance and recorded.

As students tested we asked them:

• What makes the catapult more accurate?
• What makes the bird go the furthest?
• Does mass affect the results?
• How do objects move?
• How do we calculate motion?
• What is acceleration?
• What is speed?
• What are some forces that act on objects in motion?
• How did the catapult set the marshmallow in motion?
• Which challenge did your catapult meet best, accuracy or distance?
• What helped the catapult?
• What kind of energy did your catapult use?
• What kind of force?
• What are other kinds of levers?
• What are simple machines?
• What happens when the arm of a lever is shortened or the load is moved?
• What happens to the force needed to make the load move?
• What happens when you move the fulcrum?
• What is the relationship between force and distance?
• What happens when you adjust the angle?

Students had a fantastic time learning through trial and error and working together to reach our pig targets.  The collaboration among students was neat to watch, students would give each other ideas for fine-tuning the catapults to improve results.

In the third station, students had the opportunity to reflect on what they learned.  We asked them to reflect literally and figuratively.  Literally what did you learn about how a simple machine works, parabolas, measurement, etc.  What did you learn about catapults and how the technology is used today?  Then we asked them to think about the activity figuratively, what can Angry Birds teach them about life? What can it teach them about the learning process?

Older students looked at the math and science behind Angry Birds, using screen shots to determine if a bird would make it to the pigs based on parabolas.

Younger students labeled their catapult diagram with the language they learned about simple machines, force, and motion.  Students also labeled the Angry Birds diagram.

To wrap up we discussed the middle ages as a class and went through some of the texts together.  We read the history of the catapult and talked about why it was a necessary invention.  We connected all of this with how the technology is currently being used on air craft carriers (the boys really got into that discussion).

Who knew you could learn so much from a game of Angry Birds?

Here are some of the resources that we used during this lesson:

Projectile Motion simulation

Angry Birds Pig Target

Catapult guide for students

Myth Busters YouTube clip of tree catapult

The Physics of Angry Birds

Angry Birds Geogebra

## YouTube saves the day: Busting Conspiracy Theories

### Tags: ambleside, astronomy, capzles, education, filtering, learning, middle school, myth busters, Science, space, technology integration, we choose the moon, youtube

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As  you may remember, I am currently working to bring a school from zero technology integration to full technology integration in a one to one laptop setting.  I am working alongside a WONDERFUL teacher who is eager to learn with her students.  The school initially asked me if I would just teach this group of middle school students technology as a separate subject.  I explained why I would rather work alongside the teacher so that both students and teacher could learn technology together and we could integrate it into the learning that was already happening in the classroom.  They agreed and I am now working with the teacher to weave technology into the learning that is already happening in the classroom.  On Fridays, I model how to use technology within the learning they are doing.  Today the learning focus was astronomy.  I had the students start out in Capzles where they are building an interactive timeline of the astronomy events that they are learning. Each time they learn about a new discovery, historical figure, or space mission, they add images, reflections, and information to their timeline.  I have to say, the Capzles interface is turning out to be the perfect place for them to collect all of their learning and creations in one place!

Throughout the week, students are keeping a night sky observation journal on Capzles.  Not only are they studying about historical figures who made astronomical discoveries, they are adding their own discoveries to the timeline.  Capzles lets students add blog posts right within the timeline.  Students are taking pictures, and writing about their observations, reflections, and questions as a nightly blog post.  In addition to adding their pictures to Capzles, students will also be uploading their photos to Planet FOSS where they have the opportunity to view other students night sky observations and add their own.

Today I taught the students how to add a YouTube video to their timeline.  I have to admit, this isn’t the one-step process I would hope for (either the ability to use the YouTube embed code or just copy/paste the link to embed).  Students first searched for videos about the moon using NeoK12.  Then they click on the YouTube link within the video so that they can view the video in YouTube. In front of the YouTube URL the students typed “kick” so that they could download the video to their computers.  From here, they can upload the video to their Capzles.  You can view my step-by-step instructions for that process here. Even though it isn’t a simple one-step process, it still isn’t difficult and it gave students the opportunity to practice downloading and uploading files- bonus tech skills that are built-in is always a good thing!

After students learned how to embed video, we headed over to the site We Choose the Moon.  If you haven’t seen this site, it is a MUST. It has been around for a few years and is absolutely incredible.  It drops students right into the Apollo 11 mission and gives them the chance to “re-live” that experience.  The students were totally engaged and excited to look through the pictures, video, comment on the fashion of the day, how much technology has changed, etc.  The dialogue as they explored and completed the interactive was incredible.  This interactive let students travel back in time and made them feel as if they were witnessing history first hand. Incredible.  Reading a text-account just can’t do an event like this justice.  During the interactive one of the students casually mentioned that he didn’t believe that we had ever really been to the moon, he thought it was a conspiracy theory and started pulling up websites supporting his claim.  This led to a lively class debate.

I remembered seeing a Myth Busters episode where they busted those moon landing conspiracy theories.  I pulled up the YouTube video on my iPad for students and we watched as the Myth Busters busted each one of the conspiracies that the boy had found online support for.  It was an AWESOME learning experience for all of the students as they learned about perspective, atmosphere, vacuums, and light.

You know what I love about technology?  It spurs and enables learning experiences.  Without technology in that classroom today, the conspiracy theory student might have mentioned the theories he had heard. Kids would have chuckled and rolled their eyes and that would have been the end of it.  Because we had access to technology, the conspiracy theorist was immediately able to pull up evidence to support his claim.  He even had some students who were initially rolling their eyes believing that the theories might be true.  Other students immediately jumped in to support the opposing view, that Americans had indeed landed on the moon.  This is authentic learning at its best.  Students practiced searching, taking a position, forming a persuasive argument, debating, and going through the scientific process of hypothesis, experimentation, and conclusion.  None of this was in our learning plans for the day… it was SO much better than anything I could have planned. We were able to immediately pull up a Myth Busters episode on YouTube (yet another example of why filtering policies need to be re-thought!).  The class ended with students making plans to re-create some of the Myth Buster experiments so that they could see the outcomes first hand.

Today reminded me of why I am passionate about technology in education. It also reminded me of why I love learning.

Best quote of the day from a student: “This is cool, I thought we would just learn about technology, I didn’t know we were actually going to get to use it.”

What a novel thought, using technology as a tool to learn.