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This is an in class exercise to explore rheology and strength. I use it at the beginning of Structural Geology. Divide the students into groups of 4-5 students. Each groups is given the same assortment of food goodies, a cafeteria tray, plastic spoons or knives (utensils for spreading), and napkins or wipes. The assignment: Build a structure on the tray. You must use some of each material. The challenge: which group can build the highest and strongest structure. During the building phase the students are ask to consider what is meant by strength, and what makes something strong. After a limited time, we evaluate the goals as a class. Evaluating the height goal is easy. Evaluating strength is where the learning really comes in. The strength evaluation turns into an animated discussion that the students really care about, and therefore learn takes place. Ultimately each structure is 'tested' for strength. Yup, destruction! But first predictions, discussion, hypothesizing. Lots of food for thought.
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