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Abstract

In this practical arts-integrated science and engineering lesson, an inquiry-based approach was adopted to teach a class of fourth graders in a Midwest elementary school about the scientific concepts of plate tectonics and earthquakes. Lessons were prepared following the 5 E instructional model. Next Generation Science Standards (4-ESS3-2) and the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards for fourth grade (Visual Arts: Creating 1.14a, Visual Arts: Creating 2.1.4a, and Visual Arts: Creating 3.1.4a) were addressed challenging students to create an earthquake-resistant structure to support a clay sculpture in a model of an art gallery for an earthquake-prone area. First, content knowledge was provided through videos and information texts that led to class discussion. Next, students collaboratively brainstormed ideas for the sculpture museum. In pairs, students drew sketches and planned what they would design. Natural, air-dry clay was used for the sculptures and the scaffolding supporting them was made of plastic straws, twist ties, and masking tape. Challenges to the task were introduced twice. Then, the structures were tested after completion at two different strengths of earthquake on a shake table with the help of the teacher. Information learned from the engineering challenge was used to investigate the world’s tallest buildings. Students were very engaged in both the sculpting and the engineering challenges. They made generalizations about the structures by analyzing successful and unsuccessful designs. Students were very motivated to keep their artwork safe!