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Social Studies
Grade: Middle

#3677. Bridges: Local, National, and Global Connections

Social Studies, level: Middle
Posted Tue Feb 14 08:01:42 PST 2006 by Meghan Webb (
Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia
Materials Required: K'nex
Activity Time: Varies
Concepts Taught: Problem Solving

Title: Bridges: Local, National, and Global Connections

Grade Level: 5

Rationale: After completing this activity, students will be able to understand how bridges affect both commerce and transportation locally, nationally, and globally. Students need to know this concept because bridges are vital links to both travel and trade. This lesson plan will assist the students in learning all five of the Powerful Social Studies aims because the content will be meaningful, integrative, value based, challenging, and active. The students will be actively involved in learning and performing critical thinking, creativity, math, teamwork, and understanding how bridges affect their lives. This activity also allows them to think of how different the world would be without the building of bridges.

Objectives: Students will be able to:
X Understand how bridges affect local, national, and global travel and trade and how bridges are meaningful to their lives.
X Integrate this lesson in learning to incorporate the effective use of technology and bridge building by calculating the costs of the materials that they need for building a model bridge and control the cost variables when designing a bridge.
X Work effectively as a team to meet the Value-based goals of building a bridge by solving the complexities and dilemmas involved with construction: safety of the bridge, cost of the bridge, environmental effects of the bridge, etc

This activity also continues to meet the five powerful social studies aims because it is challenging and actively involves the students in local, national, and global connections, as well as science, technology, and society.


1. Teacher will randomly place students into groups (4-6 students) depending on the amount of materials provided, academic ability, and class size.
2. Once the children have settled down, the teacher will prompt the students in a brainstorming session about 1. How bridges affect students in their community 2. How bridges affect the United States 3. How bridges affect the world.
3. The teacher should then assist the children in understanding that bridges are a vital link for travel and trade. Brainstorming Question: How would your life be different without bridges? How many bridges have you traveled over in the past week? What other types of transportation would you have to use?
4. Once the children understand how bridges are relevant to their lives everyday, the teacher will then explain how each group will calculate the cost of the materials that they will need for building a model bridge.
5. Ask the students to give examples of the type of bridge that they would like to build and how their bridge would affect a local, national, or global community. Some of the examples may include: pedestrian bridges, intercostals waterway bridges, river bridges, golf course bridges, trail bridges, skywalks, overpasses, cable stayed bridges, pipe support bridges, industrial bridges, catwalks, etc. (Make sure that the students understand that the type of bridge that they decide to build must link commerce and transportation on the local, national, or global level.)
6. Once students have thought about the type of bridge that they would like to build briefly introduce the concept of time and money because: Bridge builders not only have to consider the location and function of a bridge, but also its cost and the time needed for building it. The children also need to understand that they cannot skimp on materials because of the potential loss of safety. Keeping on schedule is important too, since people will need to use the completed bridge, and the longer it takes to build the bridge, the more it will cost.
7. Give the students 10-15 minutes to make a final group decision on the type of bridge that they would like to build and why they would like to build it. How and why is your bridge meaningful to society? Ask the groups to record their results on the worksheet provided.
8. Once the students finish the worksheet and the teacher feels that each group fully understands how bridges are a vital link to local, national, and global connections, let the building and the creativity roll!

Homework: Allow the students to self explore by researching other bridges around the world. Ask the students to then document their discoveries and return with them the next day. The students material should generate a discussion/learning session for the next day because the information that the children have found will be meaningful to them.

Evaluation: The teacher will be able to evaluate the effectiveness of this activity by the responses documented on the worksheet. When the teacher uses the worksheet as an assessment device, he or she will also be able to see if the students understand how bridges affect local, national, and global travel and trade and how bridges are meaningful to their lives.

Modifications for Diverse Learners:
Depending on the academic level of the class, the teacher should group students together based on present performance, enthusiasm, mathematical ability, and critical thinking skills. In doing this, the teacher challenges all members, regardless of their academic ability, to be a vital part of their team. The teacher should also encourage the more advanced students to become group leaders and assist their fellow teammates in completing this activity.

Bridges: Local, National, and Global Connections

Members of team:

Name of Bridge Design and Engineering Firm:

Type of Bridge that you will be building:

Estimated Cost:

Reason for Building the Bridge: How is Your Bridge Meaningful to Society in a local, national or global community?


Cost of Building Bridge
(Please show all your work!)

Include Cost and Number of Each Piece Used:


Cost Total: $___________________________

Picture of Bridge:
(Taken after construction)