Sunday, 14 December 2014

10 Ways to Learn about Bridges

Bridges are one of those amazing architectural creations that not only amaze my son but has lead him on a journey of discovery. Recently, as he was navigating the globe (thanks to google earth) in search of world famous landmarks, he came across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and wanted to know more about it and other bridges from around the world. So here is a collection of the resources and activities that my son has been doing to learn about bridges. 

Block Play
In my previous post, I wrote about 10 Ways to Support an Interest in Engineering and this starts from an early age. Playing and building with blocks, both Wooden Blocks and Mega Blocks, was a great introduction to bridges for my son and now my daughters are discoverying them too. 

Together with their blocks, my children add in their Thomas Train Set and this is the perfect recipe for building bridges. At first they started with small bridges to support their train track. As their understanding of bridge construction grew so did their bridges. Now their bridges are built in order to transport their trains and their cargo to the top of a table using a variety of piers, built from blocks, and chairs. This is where my daughters (5yrs & 3yrs old) are at with their learning about bridges while my sons (9yrs old) learning has processed further.

Ipad Bridge Construction Apps
We came across two amazing ipad apps on itunes that supports learning about bridges. The first app, Simple Physics, lets you design different structures using blueprints and this allows you to build your structure and test your design. You are also given a budget for your structure. 

The second app, Bridge Basher, is similar to simple physics in that you design and build your bridge before testing it. This app allows you to test the strength of your bridge so you can find and fix problems in your bridge design. Again, this app has a budget in which you are to construct your bridge.

Bridge Designs
From the ipad, learning about bridge construction was extended to our Geomag Set. My son was able to apply his knowledge of how truss bridges use trianglar trusses to support the weight of the bridge and its load.

Process of Building a Bridge
We stumbled across Garrett's Bridges which is an online resource for building model bridges from popsicle sticks. There we found kits and plans for building our own models. There is also information on the different types and names of bridges, bridge joints, the engineering process behind building a bridge as well as how to test, or break a bridge. So we purchased the digital blueprints combo so we could build our own arch bridge, beam bridge and suspension bridge.

This building project lasted a number of days before we got to test how strong our beam bridge was by placing a box full of music books on top of the bridge. Surprisingly, it was able to support the weight of the box without bending or breaking.

Constructing Different Types of Bridges
As an interest in bridges continued, I purchased the K'Nex Education Bridges: Introduction to Structures kit. It came with 13 different types of bridges and designs that can be built using the K'Nex resources. My son (and husband too) were immediately taken with this resource and got busy straight away building bridges. The instructions also come with information about the different bridges and where they can be found around the world.

Famous Bridges - 3D Puzzles
The discovery of the Golden Gate Bridge led to questions about how it was built. My son watched some documentaries, Building the Golden Gate Bridge and The Golden Gate Bridge, to learn more about this bridge.

We found two different 3D puzzles, Golden Gate Bridge and Tower Bridge, that our son enjoyed putting together. The puzzles showed my son what a suspension bridge looks like and how the Tower Bridge is both a suspension and bascule bridge

Visiting Bridges
We have visited the bridges in our local town to see what type of bridges they are (mostly beam bridges), what they are used for (transport vehicles and a walking bridge), what are they made from (mostly steel) and what other features we could see on the bridge. Our time outside has been limited due to the extreme heat but in the past, we have visited some of Australia's most iconic bridges including this beautiful Arch Bridge, Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Books about Bridges
Since my son became interested in bridges, I have been looking around for the best bridge books for kids and have recently purchased some fantastic books for our children. 

These books  include:


More engineering ideas and resources can be found on my Engineering Science pinterest board

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  1. A very thorough and thoughtful post on Bridging! : )

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