Thursday, July 8, 2010

Studying Engineering Before They Can Spell It

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times: In a Glen Rock, N.J., kindergarten, testing a wolf-proof house.

The high-performing Glen Rock school district, about 22 miles northwest of Manhattan, now teaches 10 to 15 hours of engineering each year to every student in kindergarten through fifth grade, as part of a $100,000 redesign of the science curriculum. New Jersey is the only state that mandates an introduction to engineering by second grade. Although this may seem ridiculous to some, the lessons are well-planned and are very creative. Here's an excerpt from the article about the kinds of lessons these students do in class:

Ms. Morrow and Jennifer Burke, who also teach classes for the gifted and talented, developed the engineering lessons and run them in all four elementary schools.

They plan multiday projects, often built around classic and popular stories like the Three Little Pigs, and take students step by step through the engineering process: design, build, test, evaluate.

“They have to have the thinking skills of an engineer to keep up with all the innovation that’s constantly coming into their world,” Ms. Morrow said.

First graders were recently challenged with helping a farmer keep rabbits out of his garden.

In teams of four, they brainstormed about building fences with difficult-to-scale ladders instead of doors and setting out food decoys for the rabbits. They drew up blueprints and then brought them to life with plastic plates, paper cups, straws and foam paper.

Then they planned to test their ideas with pop-up plastic rabbits. If the fences were breached, they would be asked to improve the design.

“It gets your brain going,” said Elizabeth Crowley, 7, who wants to be an engineer when she grows up. “And I actually learn something when I’m doing a project — like you can work together to do something you couldn’t do before.”

In the kindergarten class that was designing homes — none out of hay, wood or brick — for the three pigs, Ms. Morrow started the lesson by asking the 20 children sitting cross-legged on the carpet if they knew what engineers do.

“They can write poems?” one girl guessed.

“Well,” Ms. Morrow allowed, “they could write a poem about something they build.”

But if they were still unsure about the language of engineering, the students were soon immersed in its nuts and bolts.
In fact, the students love their engineering lessons so much, they talk about it at dinner time. It makes sense to get children immersed in engineering at such a young age. Through engineering, they can bring what they learn in math, science, and technology to life and learn how to apply those lessons in their daily lives. It is also a vital way to get kids up to date with technology, especially in such a competitive global world that we live in now. What do you guys think of this teaching technique?

For more ideas and lesson plans you can do with your child at home, check out Engineering is Elementary, a whole program creating a research-based, standards-driven, and classroom-tested curriculum that integrates engineering and technology concepts and skills with elementary science topics. EiE lessons not only promote K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning, but also connect with literacy and social studies.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Share Me!