Introduction to Challenges in Physical Science
The Challenges In Physical Science series, developed
by Dr Phil Sadler and others at the Harvard-Smithsonian
Center for Astrophysics, is composed of materials that
can supplement an existing middle-school science curriculum.
Its activities were designed by teachers and researchers
to have strong links to the Content Standards found
in the National Science
The curriculum's pedagogy emphasizes iterative
design, with students doing one design version
after an another quickly. The special aim of CIPS is
that each design change results in a measurable and
significant improvement in product performance. Students
start a design task with initial plans for a barely
functioning solution -- a bad prototype design for which
the teacher takes credit. Students build and test it,
and then improve upon it iteration by iteration. With
this approach, students find success early and throughout
In MOVIE 1, Phil Sadler talks about how students do
this work, and the role measurement plays in giving
students feedback about their products. Here are some
questions to keep in mind while reviewing the movie:
You can print out a copy of the Students Materials for the
"Single-Load Bridge" challenge by clicking below.
Get other CIPS materials through its publisher Kendall-Hunt.
1. What are some advantages of students doing many design
iterations quickly? Disadvantages?
2. How might giving initial design plans help beginning
designers? Why does CIPS give students prototype design
plans work only poorly?
3. What constraints are purposely built into these tasks?
Do you think these tasks more or less open-ended than
other design-oriented curricula you have seen?