Saturday, March 30, 2013

Yes, Polly Pocket can Zipline (well, sort of!)

Last week we had Polly Pocket Ziplining day in class!  I showed students a short 15 second video of my 9 year old ziplining, and said that while I'd love to set up a zipline course in our courtyard, legalities would only allow us to create one for Polly Pocket!

I asked students to think about where in the room we could put our zipline so that it was as long as possible.  We've been exploring the Pythagorean theorem so students just needed to be able to visualize where they might find a useful right triangle.

I put several diapers boxes around the room for students to use (which ironically, started a secondary debate about why I had so many empty diapers boxes).  With the boxes and a drawing of a rectangular prism as tools students were able to see some different methods they could use to identify the diagonal of the classroom if they had the measurements for the length, width, and height of the classroom.

They tested their ideas by using the Pythagorean theorem twice and the measurements of the diaper boxes...students used different right triangles in the box and showed that there are multiple ways of identifying the length of the diagonal.

As a final step, they calculated the length of the diagonal of the room and we measured out the string for Polly.  Away she went...well, at least halfway down the zipline.  We definitely need a little bit more of the engineering design process to have a successful zipline...good thing we used Polly and not one of my students :)


  1. This is the 3-D Pythagorean diagonal that you're speaking of, right? Great idea!

    In terms of Polly getting stuck, I can recommend a variation that is a balloon rocket (balloon tied to a straw, which is looped around the string), but I'm not sure how well this would tie to real-life ziplining! :(

  2. The straw is a good idea...We definitely lost all ties to real life ziplining when we throttled Polly down the zipline with no safety equipment. I was actually thinking of buying a little pulley from a hardware store. Thanks for the comment :)