At the front of my classroom are four trapezoid tables that form a semi-circle. I typically use this for guided reading and guided writing, for students to sit at when taking notes from the board, and when doing RtI activities with my kiddos. It makes a nice barrier between the students' desks and the "stage" as I like to call it. The students' desks wrap around the set of tables and provide a clear line of sight for everyone to the board. Since I am not a very traditional teacher, I don't spend a ton of time in front of the board lecturing, but I do use it for math and when giving other short bursts of information. Plus, that's where I project my computer screen on the board!
Today, I needed a space for 12 partnerships to share a laptop, two temperature probes, and have access to an ice bath for our experiment on insulators. I decided to use the semi-circle of tables as the outer ring of laptops (see the picture above), and use a fifth trapezoid table (from the hallway) to hold the ice bath in the center. Luckily, this fifth table was slightly shorter than the other tables, so any water spillage would go on the floor instead of on the laptops.
I knew that the 12 cords from the temperature probes would be in the way if I let the students encircle the ice bath, so I only allowed student access to one side of the table. Of course, as you can see in the pictures above, they were squished! Since the experiment required someone to hold a bottle in the ice bath for 20 minutes, I had to ask six students to hold their bottle and one other partnership's because we couldn't fit anymore people back there! (Next year I will try to create two separate spaces with a similar setup so we aren't so squished.)
Ultimately, it went well! Once the six students kind of found their "happy place" and hunkered down for 20 minutes of waiting, everyone seemed calm and content. We were experimenting to see which of the six materials we were testing would make the best insulator between a bottle of hot water and an ice bath of cold water. The materials we tested were: aluminum foil, wax paper, plastic wrap, polyester batting, felt, and carpet padding. All materials were wrapped around the bottle once and put into a plastic bag (to keep the variables the same). After 20 minutes were up, we compared the final temperatures of the hot water in each bottle. We discovered that the polyester batting was the best insulator (it kept the temperature hottest) and the aluminum foil was the worst (the temperature was almost the same as the ice bath). Here is a sample graph that was created for plastic wrap:
Although I moved very little furniture around this time, the table being in a new place and having 12 computers set up was enough to get my kids excited about the science lesson that we were participating in first thing this morning. So don't be afraid to move things around in your classroom and watch the kids come in and be surprised! It can be very exciting and motivating and can really boost the processing power of the students if harnessed correctly! Of course, be ready for them to have a lot of energy because that excitement can't stay bottled up for long! :)