Many students who are gifted have an incessant curiosity for knowing how things work. For many, it is not just a curiosity, but a vital need from deep within. These students explore everything until they know or figure out how it works. If you live with one of them, you know what I mean. It is exhausting to parent them as children because they may not consider danger in their explorations, they just need to know how things work. Anything that isn’t locked down or off-limits is fair game to them, and often being locked down or off-limits is meaningless, (or an additional challenge). In my household we learned very early on, (in toddlerhood), that we should keep shelves of items that were available to be taken apart at kid height, and other things that we needed intact had to be hidden away. Curiously, we found that everything that was taken apart was put back together correctly, or it was improved upon.
This week I saw a news story and video about an historic building in Shanghai that was moved to a new location to preserve its historic value, rather than knocking it down to make way for a new commercial center. The headline read that the building ‘walked’ to its new home. That intrigued me because I knew the move was an engineering marvel and required an enormous amount of advanced physics, math, and other technical skills. It is incredible to me that any building can be moved, but to see this 5-story concrete building ‘walking’ down the curved street was truly astonishing. Having an engineer in the household (all that taking apart led to a career), I knew that the brain power, technology, and skills that were used to move the building were astounding.
I thought about the learning that students could experience once they viewed the video and read about the task. This is the type of story that motivates students to delve deeper into STEM subjects and real-life uses of ordinary classes they have every day, classes that often become boring and tedious. Courses like algebra and physics are essential to moving a building, and related equations would be much more engaging than pages of worksheets. Working on a challenge to move something in their classroom or outside, or to simply figure out how the engineers accomplished it in Shanghai could provide the motivation for students to relate their learning to real-life problems. Even elementary students learn algebraic and physics concepts. Of course, advanced STEM skills were used, but the challenge for all students, including those who are gifted, is to figure out how things are done, and apply it to their world. Other experts were also involved, so subjects beyond STEM could also be involved in an interdisciplinary study. After all, someone had to dream up the idea of moving the building, write proposals to gain the permits, write the story and shoot the video for the news, among other tasks.
These are the types of student activities teachers should consider for lessons and units. Through them, students will learn, apply, and use STEM subjects. It is always within your purview to make a suggestion to your student’s teacher. Better yet, let your student work up a plan for an interdisciplinary unit, using a story such as the ‘walking building’ to delve deeper into STEM and other subjects. Encourage your child to share the plan with his/her teachers. Imagine all the learning and differentiation that could occur in this type of exploration!
1) Old Chinese Building ‘walks’ to New Location to Make Way for Shanghai’s New Commercial Centre
South China Morning Post
2) A 5-Story Building in Shanghai ‘walks’ to a New Location
CNN Style, Architecture
Jessie Yeung, CNN
Serenitie Wang, CNN
by Dr. Wanda Routier
Ask the Doctor