ROCK VALLEY—Given the price of eggs these days, learning how to prevent them from breaking sounds like a good idea.

That was the primary task for Jordan TeGrootenhuis’s eighth-grade science students at Rock Valley Middle School as they recently attempted to create a device to keep an egg from breaking when dropped from a height of 15 feet, an exercise commonly referred to as an egg drop.

Students completed the activity Friday, Feb. 17, and spent some time wrapping things up the next week.

TeGrootenhuis said the exercise engages students in an engineering design process through trial and error while being limited in design by constraints on the materials they used.

Constraints included:

g Students must design a device that is physically connected to the egg.

g Free materials include seven sheets of paper and a maximum of two meters of masking tape.

g Additional materials such as straws or cardboard may be acquired with TeGrootenhuis dollars, with each group given five TG dollars to spend as they see fit.

g Other materials may be brought in and used, but it will require approval and use of TG Dollars to do so.

g The cost of materials is fluid much like a real marketplace and may change based on negotiations in price for materials.

TeGrootenhuis said the egg drop exercise is a fairly common middle school science activity, and he has seen many versions through the years. He decided to implement constraints as a way of instilling resolve in his students to be persistent despite initial failure, something all scientific endeavors are confronted with.

“I wanted to put my own spin on it with the ability to challenge students with a lot of constraints they seem as impossible to overcome,” TeGrootenhuis said. “After the unit, we tie it into a conversation about grit and how failing can be useful in gaining knowledge.”

He said the biggest emphasis is the engineering design process and relating those concepts in the physics unit on force. The students have to make connections on how to minimize the forces on the egg but have to apply the thoughts they have into practice using an engineering approach.

Student groups were given three graded drop opportunities from heights as high as 15 feet, with the best score recorded for their highest successful drop without a broken egg.

A couple of students shared their observations about the egg drop.

“It was challenging, but also fun and entertaining,” said Kalyson Bakker. “We learned more about grit and what it means to keep going, even when things do not always go as planned. We also got to spend time with different classmates and see how creative other people are. We also had restrictions, which helped us really think outside of the box.”

“It challenged us because when you came up with an idea, it may work, but something else might need to be fixed,” said Natalie Leusink. “I learned that you need to use grit to overcome hard challenges and find a solution.”

The idea of the egg drop activity was something TeGrootenhuis experienced as a student in his West Lyon High School physics class taught by Audrey Halverson. He reached out to his former teacher, who helped him modify her version down to a middle school science level.

According to TeGrootenhuis, the egg drop is just the beginning of fun to be had in the classroom laboratory involving that popular breakfast food that is a far cry from a dime a dozen.

“I have seen other activities dealing with force and seat belts, but I have not conducted those in my classroom,” he said.

As with any hands-on activity, TeGrootenhuis said many students get more excited about participating when it is something other than what most would consider routine schoolwork.

“That is part of why I love this unit,” he said.” It has an ability to engage a different style of learner that normally would not be super into school.”

There is another observation he has made about its usefulness across the spectrum of learning that teachers see in their students.

“It also can challenge some of the more traditional ‘A’ students,” TeGrootenhuis said. “I have had a lot of students that are very good in a traditional setting struggle with the application that this unit requires. That might be the best thing about this unit in my opinion.”

He said the best thing about being a middle school science teacher is he gets to build the bridge to the high school science classroom.

“They start to get the freedoms of high schoolers and some of the workload that comes with that; however, they have to be guided on how to handle those situations,” TeGrootenhuis said.