Science & Technology Challenges

Week of October 12, 2020

The goal of the NEWESD 101 Science Kit Cooperative is to send out bi-weekly science challenges to our members. The challenges will sometimes be tailored to a grade level, or a more general challenge which can be adjusted or added to based on the grade level you are teaching.

If you are needing additional support, please reach out so that we may assist you. I would love to hear what you think about the challenges!

Thank you,


Grades K-5: Shadow Tracing (Earth Science)

As the sun moves around the sky, your shadow will move too. We see a shadow when your body blocks the sunlight. The shadow position will change based on the sun's position in the sky. Sundials, which can be used to tell time, work by casting a shadow as the sun moves across the sky. The sun follows the same pattern each day.


  • Different colored chalk
  • Sunny outdoor area


  1. Find a sunny place to stand.
  2. Have a family member or friend trace around your shadow with chalk.
  3. Come back a few hours later.
  4. Stand in the same place and then trace your shadow again. Use different color chalk.

You could also create a sundial to mark when the shadow moves each hour.

Grades 6-8


See the attached lesson for students to trace the evolution of communication technologies.

See attached lesson for students to learn about GPS technology.

This lesson is designed to teach students how to read and interpret Punnett square with the final goal of them creating their own squares. The students will be able to determine possible genotypes and phenotypes of offspring based parent alleles.

See attached lesson that includes the documents needed to break this lesson into three "sections".

Technology Challenge


These LEGO mazes, which can be solved with “code” using paper rather than a computer, illustrate 4 levels of difficulty and include a variety of programming concepts. While these Levels will be described in more detail below, here is a quick overview:

  • Level 1: The child can see the specific problem at hand and step by step walk their LEGO figure out of the maze. Like the game Robot Turtles, this easiest level teaches the child to think from a point of reference different than their own. The child’s left may not be the same as the figure-in-the-maze’s left, but even the youngest kids can learn this valuable skill of switching reference frame.
  • Level 2: Hopefully, by the time they’ve mastered Level 1, your child will realize that it’s a bit tedious to tell the character to move forward 7 times in a row. Rather, it would be handy to just have a way to say “Do this next command 7 times.” This level introduces the concept of “for loops.”
  • Level 3: Older children might be ambitious enough at this point to realize that an awful lot of work goes into solving a specific maze using the method of Levels 1 and 2. With the introduction of “while loops” and “if statements”, kids can challenge themselves to write as short a program as possible to solve a specific maze. The programmer just needs to consider all possibilities at any random location for their LEGO figure and decide the best generic sequence of actions. For example, what should the character do if there’s an opening to their left? What if they’ve hit a dead end?
  • Level 4: While kids will hopefully experience success in Level 3, they will likely find that if they try to use their code on a different maze, it may not work. It’s possible that their figure will get stuck in what programmers call an “infinite loop”, repeating the same behavior over and over again without being able to escape. By introducing a random number generator, older kids can write a program that can get their figure out of any maze.

At the end of this process, the most mature kids will realize that it would be great if their LEGO figure could remember where he had already been so that he could systematically cover ground instead of seeming to wander aimlessly. This could motivate a discussion of more advanced programming concepts such as memory and stored variables.


  • Lego or duplo blocks
  • Lego figure
  • Large square grid paper (or you can draw large squares on a piece of paper)


  • Design and create a maze from LEGOS or Duplos. Build the maze on the square paper so that you can see the squares of the paper (see the photo for this section).
  • Indicate on the paper which is the starting square and which is the ending square. Put your Lego figure on the starting block facing the direction it needs to go.
  • Students should "write a program" that will get you from the start to the finish Example: Go Forward, Go Forward, Go Forward, Turn Right, Go Forward, etc. Every movement is a new line of code. Direction that the figure will need to turn is based on the direction the figure is facing.
  • When they reach the finish, students should end their code with "END"

How could a student use loops? For example, would they indicate Go Forward multiple times or indicate in a loop: Repeat x times: Go Forward

You can even incorporate if, then statements. If <there is not a wall> to my left, turn left; else turn right, etc.

Can the student hand their program to a sibling or parent and have them complete the maze by using only what the student "coded"? The student can troubleshoot any code that provides an "error" (doesn't get the figure where it needs to go).