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girl with bracesJust Like New!

Mr. Samuels, the school library media specialist met with the 9th grade English and Math teachers to discuss ways to help students see the relevance of their subject matter in the "real world." They identified standards in the Math and English program that also integrated information skills. Their students would complete a cross-curriculular, inquiry-based project.


Each student was directed to identify a "real world" problem requiring some type of construction or large-scale creation. They directed to apply their knowledge of math and writing to develop a plan to solve this problem including all the specifications and directions needed to complete the task. Along the way they would address the following standards.

Lizzie, a ninth grader was not thrilled with the idea of a project. She preferred to read the textbook, do the problems, and take a test. It was much easier than actually thinking. This assignment sounded like work. At least she could count it for two classes at once!


girl thinkingFor as long as Lizzie could remember, her parents had talked about painting their house. In some places, the paint peeled off in long strips. She gazed out the window of the car and tried to ignore her parents as they debated about whether vinyl siding was better than old-fashioned paint. All of a sudden, it occurred to Lizzie that this might be a great inquiry project for her project. She knew that her parents didn't have much money, so they'd have to do the work themselves. However, it would finally resolve the family squabble and make her house look great!

Lizzie thought the recently installed vinyl siding on the neighbor's house was beautiful. It made the house look almost new. After telling her family about the project, they agreed to consider her plan. She started with the following questions:


man in storeLizzie decided to see if there was any information on vinyl siding at the local lumber yard. She talked her uncle into going with her on a Saturday afternoon. At first, Lizzie was a little overwhelmed by the options and terminology associated with siding. They provided lots of information and even gave her a brochure and website where she could download a 10 page manual.

Lizzie discussed her success with Mr. Samuels, the library media specialist, who shared his enthusiasm with the project. He suggested that she might use additional resources to confirm the information found in the brochure was correct.

Although the school library had one good book on home improvement, the most indepth resource was found through a Google search. The Vinyl Siding Institute (PDF document) is an organization that certifies vinyl siding installers. The manual described how to measure the house. It contained the same information as the brochure from the store, but provided much more detail. As Lizzie worked her way through the materials, she asked herself the following questions:

friendsThe book, brochure, and website manual all explained how to measure, how to calculate materials needed, how to prepare the surface, and how to install the materials. Most of the diagrams made sense to Lizzie when she sat with her father to discuss the project.

After initial exploration, Lizzie created a list of things she learned. Next, she went through her list with her best friend Katie.

Katie suggested that they talk to the neighbor who replaced his siding last year. He and his son did most of the work themselves. After talking to the neighbor, it was decided that Lizzie's dad and uncle could do most of the work. Lizzie just needs to figure out what supplies are needed.

Lizzie thought she was ready to begin measuring. With the use of a tape measure, pad of paper, pencil, and digital camera Lizzie and Katie recorded information about her house. They took photographs of each area and measured all the important features.

outside housesketch of housesketch of house
(Click to enlarge the images.)


Once all of these measurements were complete, she calculated how much of each type of material she would need. She figured out the square footage for siding and insulation by multiplying the length times height for the seven main areas. She decided not to calculate the area for the front of the garage because it did not have much siding, and there will be extra because of windows on the house. The starter strip was calculated my adding the total linear feet around the structures. These structures have 6 outside corners that will need fittings. One extra corner will only need a four-foot section because of the brick. The amount of J-channel was calculated by adding the linear feet around windows, under the soffit, and along the brick. The amount of flashing included the distance around the windows and the length of the corners. An extra roll was added for the wrapping of the windows. The following is a copy of her calculations.

Statistics on house
(Click to enlarge and view the entire worksheet of calculations.)


With all of these calculation complete, she was able to create a shopping list. However this brought up a new series of questions.

Lizzie visited both the local store and the superstore to estimate material prices. She created a document in Excel to keep track of the budget (see below). Extra items were added such as nails, grip caps (for attaching the insulation), sealant, vents, mounting blocks, and the break rental. The break rental was for wrapping the windows. It would probably only be needed for one or two days, but she estimated for three just in case. If they rent it on Friday it would only cost $35 if returned Monday morning from the local store. However it was much more expensive for delivery from the superstore.

shopping list
(Click to enlarge the download the Excel Spreadsheet.)

Finally, Lizzie made a summary of the things she prepared for the house transformation to review with her parents.

happy girlReflection

At the end of the project, Lizzie stated that this project was something her parents had been talking about for years. It felt good to have a real impact on a family decision. At times, Lizzie said that she felt she was cheating by getting help from the people at the lumber yard and her family, but Lizzie's teachers convinced her that seeking guidance is part of learning.

Explore how measuring tools and calculators are used by student information scientists.


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