Pleasant Ridge Elementary School third-graders participated in a cross-curriculum Potato Chip Challenge Nov. 21.
In the weeks leading up to the challenge, MakerSpace teacher Meg Phillips and Spanish teacher Gretchen Marshall prepared for the challenge through gathering donations and purchasing thrift shop items, aided by a grant from Farmer's Insurance. The project challenged students to pack for an imaginary trip to Spain, combining Spanish vocabulary lessons with an engineering challenge to keep a Pringle's chip from being crushed in the suitcase during the flight. Pupils voted on what additional items would be packed besides the potato chip, with a final list that included a blanket, a small soccer ball, a passport, sunglasses and slippers.
Marshall said that, in the weeks leading up to the challenge, pupils learned their numbers in Spanish and talked about weighing in grams. Pupils also learned about converting U.S. dollars to euros, the currency used throughout most of Europe.
On the day of the challenge, pupils formed teams and received a budget of $25 for packing materials, ranging from tape to bubble wrap to packing peanuts.
Phillips demonstrated that suitcases, in the real world, are often handled roughly by an airline. She explained to children that learning to pack delicate items while keeping down packaging costs is a real-world challenge that many adults face.
At the end of the rough baggage handling, each team opened their suitcase to see how the chip had fared. If a team's potato chip successfully survived the challenge, any money left over from their purchases would be converted to euros that pupils could spend on souvenirs during their imaginary trip.
Two teams of third-graders took the challenge Nov. 21, and an additional three classes will take the challenge after the Thanksgiving break.
Watch a video of Meg Phillips simulating rough baggage-handling conditions here: