Bayville Intermediate School fifth graders experienced what architects and engineers do when they are about to build a structure. After studying geodesic domes in geometry and learning that these buildings are extremely stable due to their shape, the students built their own geodesic dome from newspaper, using the very same principles applied by professionals. A geodesic dome is a spherical structure with triangular elements that provide support – think of an igloo.

To start, the class studied shapes and discovered that triangles are the most stable polygon since compression at one joint is balanced by tension along the opposite side, and therefore the most common shape used to build geodesic domes. The future engineers and architects first built miniature geodesic domes using toothpicks and gumdrops to explore this geometric concept. After successfully creating the candy domes, the class moved on to the life-size version, which students could actually enter. Using a dowel to roll newspaper as tightly as possible, three rolls were then attached to form a triangle. Each triangle served as the base for the next one, sharing sides with each other. The project required students to use their geometry skills to ensure that each triangle was exactly the same size.

This enrichment activity was organized by Bayville teachers Lori Pace and Joe Aragonesi as part of a geometry unit in math. Art teacher Erin Keys also contributed to creating the sturdy structure. Mrs. Pace observed that the project illustrated to students how geometry relates to real-world problems. “They were able to see that the geometry skills they were learning could be applied to professions such as engineering and architecture,” she explained. “Added benefits were the reinforcement of the importance of teamwork and accuracy, and of course, that the children had so much fun building the dome!”