Mules and Tools Elementary STEM

Walking mules along the towpath
Mules walking along the towpath.
 

Mules and Tools on the Canal: Elementary

Description

In this activity, students will explore the history and engineering of the C&O Canal, canal boats, the importance of the mules in canal operations, and the concept of the mules as "hybrid" animals. In addition, students will learn the basic understanding of various methods of transportation and incorporate STEM knowledge through a discussion of plants and the "tools" plants have adapted to spread seeds.

Students will break into smaller groups as they rotate through STEM stations. First, children will learn about hybrids when they are introduced to a mule, discuss the role of mules on the canal, learn how canal children cared for mules, and examine canal artifacts. During our companion STEM activity, students will discover the "tools" plants use to spread their seed. Finally, students will design their own hybrid animal, drawing and labeling its special features.

At the end of the activity, students should be able to…

1.Define, design, and create a hybrid animal.

2.Construct and defend their opinion of the hybrid animal.

3.Compare different plant adaptations and discuss how humans adapt to their environment around them.

The park partnered with Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Schools to develop this field trip day along with pre- and post-visit activities for your classroom. Completing the classroom activities will enhance student learning. The lessons include a mapping project, a critical thinking activity, a reader's theater, and several math and estimation activities. See our website for materials.

Location: Great Falls Tavern

Length: 1 hour

Cost: $5 per person

Activity Itinerary

Students will break into smaller groups as they rotate through STEM stations. First, children will learn about hybrids when they are introduced to a mule, discuss the role of mules on the canal, learn how canal children cared for mules, and examine canal artifacts. During our companion STEM activity, students will discover the "tools" plants use to spread their seed. Finally, students will design their own hybrid animal, drawing and labeling its special features.

Pre-Visit Activities

Use these classroom activities to orient the children to the canal.

Option A (Recommended): Mule Characters: Make mule character necklaces to wear on your field trip.Print the mule character cards (see appendix). Cut them out, punch a hole, string some yarn through, and give one to each student. Read each character card description and discuss the role of mules on the canal.

Option B: Web Rangers: Students complete a National Park Service online activity called Young George Washington's Adventures. It is about the tools Mr. Washington needed for his first military assignment, which brought him to Wills Creek. No registration is required and the activity is free. Other learning modules are available, and students may create a password to help them track their progress at Ranger School. https://www.nps.gov/webrangers/activities/youngwashington/

Option C: Video "Down the Ol' Potomac": Watch this 1917 video made by the Edison Manufacturing Company. This 11-minute, silent picture follows two men as they travel the canal in a small canoe pulled by a horse. Along the way they see cargo boats pulled by mules, locks, the Paw Paw Tunnel and aqueducts. The Library of Congress hosts this streaming video: http://www.loc.gov/item/00694119.

Post-Visit Activities

Option A: STEM Lesson for Hybrid Animal 3-D Modeling- Students will use their worksheet (completed during field trip) to create their hybrid animal with modeling clay or play dough. If needed, make a copy of the design worksheet (see appendix) for each student to complete in the classroom.

Option B: Opinion Piece –Students will write a brief summary describing their hybrid animal. The opinion piece worksheet is provided in the appendix. Ask students to describe specific qualities they want in their animal, i.e. Is it "stronger," "smarter," or "faster" than the animals from which it came? Students can share their opinion pieces and model hybrid animals with the class.The class can vote on which hybrid animal they like best.

Option C: Flipbook

1. Provide one hybrid design flipbook template to each student. Remind them to draw the animals about the same size with a head (top) on one side and a tail (bottom) on the other side.

2. Have the students cut out the four boxes.

3. Staple the four boxes together as indicated.

4. Have the students cut the middle (dotted) line. Remember not to cut all the way through the middle, so the pages can be flipped.

Plan Your Visit

For more materials, information, and to schedule a field trip, e-mail the education department.

Contact

Canal Classrooms Rangers

email us

301-714-2213

Last updated: January 23, 2018

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1850 Dual Highway, Suite 100
Hagerstown, MD 21740

Phone:

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