The culminating task for our unit on strong and stable structures was the highlight of my first four months back in the classroom.   My colleague and friend, Catherine Little, who is currently teaching science at York University at the Faculty of Education, generously offered her time and expertise by facilitating the launch of this culminating task with my third grade students.

Catherine launched the task by first reading the picture book, A Chair for Baby Bear  (2004) by Kaye Umansky and illustrated by Chris Fisher (Barron’s Educational Series, ISBN-13: 978-0764157899).   In this story, after Goldilocks breaks Baby Bear’s chair and flees the bear’s cottage, Baby Bear goes to town with Papa Bear shopping for a new chair.   In town, Baby Bear was unable to find a chair that was “just right” for him.  Catherine stopped at this point in the book, and presented the task to my class.  They were to make a chair for Baby Bear using only newspaper and masking tape!

The students had to apply everything they learned about strong and stable structures to create a chair that was just right for Baby Bear.   The knew they were successful when they placed a stuffed toy bear on their chair. If their chair were stable, the stuffed bear and the chair would not fall down!

After the students reflected on the process and self assessed their designs, they wrote a procedure or recount for “Professor Catherine” to share with other third grade students she will visit.  The students were so proud of their chair.  They were focused and I was able to assess what they learned about strong and stable structures, not by giving them a unit test on the topic, but by observing students build their chair, conferencing with them and by reading their self assessments and procedural writing.   This is what I love most about teaching and learning!



3 thoughts on “An Integrated Unit- A Chair for Baby Bear

  1. Hi Tina,
    I was wondering if you gave students a limit as to how much masking tape or newspapers they were allowed to use for this culminating task.


  2. Hi Lisa,
    I didn’t set any limits on masking tape and newspaper. Perhaps in hindsight I should have. I think I went through 4-5 rolls of masking tape! But this was the first hands-on design project I did with the students this year. It was clear to me that they had limited experience with this kind of open ended, problem based task. Some of them had to trash their first chair and start again after they saw how other pairs of students were more successful at building their strong and stable chair. I didn’t give each pair a roll of masking tape. Rather, I simply gave each pair ‘arms length” strips of tape as they needed. Many kids messed up the tape, trying to apply it to the newspaper, and had to get more tape for a second or third go. The newspaper wasn’t as much of an issue. I heard from parents that some students built another chair at home too! They really enjoyed this task. Our next culminating task is to make a car or toy that will move with a propeller!

  3. Hello Tina,

    I was wondering if you had specific worksheets that you handed to your students or if you just introduced the task orally.
    Please let me know!!

    This task is great!

    Ms. Whittaker

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