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Bringing Engineering to Life in Elementary School

Are you looking to add engineering into your elementary grade classroom but aren't sure where to begin? This self-guide tutorial dispels common engineering myths, walks you through the engineering design process, and offers concrete steps you can use to easily integrate engineering. This training is offered at three grade levels: Elementary, Middle and High.

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Bringing Engineering to Life in Elementary School

  1. 1. Bringing Engineering to Life in Elementary School An online tutorial for elementary classroom teachers 1
  2. 2. 1. Why Teach Engineering? 2. Engineering Myths and Truths 3. The EDP (Engineering Design Process) 4. Classroom Connections 5. Engineering Suggestions 2 SECTIONS OF THIS TUTORIAL
  3. 3. WHY TEACH ENGINEERING? 3  You be a better teacher  Your students be better learners ENGINEERING CAN HELP
  4. 4. 4 The engineering mindset comes naturally to children. Their curiosity is activated as they investigate a phenomenon, build, design, or approach a challenge. WHY TEACH ENGINEERING? WHY TEACH ENGINEERING?
  5. 5. 5 Engineering takes advantage of children’s interest in how things work.
  6. 6. 6 Engineering is a platform for building scientific knowledge and putting math into practice. WHY TEACH ENGINEERING?
  7. 7. 7 Engineering “clarifies the relevance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to everyday life.” Source: Next Generation Science Standards WHY TEACH ENGINEERING?
  8. 8. 8 The E in STEM pulls it all together. WHY TEACH ENGINEERING?
  9. 9. 9 WHY TEACH ENGINEERING? Engineers are guys in hard hats who do math problems all day. MYTH
  10. 10. WHY TEACH ENGINEERING? 10 Engineers are diverse and come to the profession with a passion to solve real- world problems. TRUTH
  11. 11. 11 There are many stereotypes about engineering.
  12. 12. 12 Engineering Myths and Truths Engineering is basically the same thing as science, and you’re already teaching science. MYTH ENGINEERING MYTHS AND TRUTHS
  13. 13. 13 Engineering Myths and Truths They are different and complementary  Science answers questions through experimentation.  Engineering solves problems through design. TRUTH ENGINEERING MYTHS AND TRUTHS
  14. 14. 14 Engineering Myths and Truths Science is familiar and you know how to teach it, but engineering is foreign territory. ENGINEERING MYTHS AND TRUTHS MYTH
  15. 15. 15 ENGINEERING MYTHS AND TRUTHS They overlap and both involve…  Using rulers, thermometers, and other instruments  Collecting data  Making careful observations  Listening to classmates’ ideas and solutions TRUTH
  16. 16. 16 Engineering Myths and Truths Engineering is dry and pragmatic, focused on facts and numbers. It’s not imaginative or artistic. ENGINEERING MYTHS AND TRUTHS MYTH
  17. 17. 17 ENGINEERING MYTHS AND TRUTHS TRUTH Engineers use their creativity and analytical skills to invent, design, and build things that matter. By finding imaginative and practical solutions, engineers are changing the world all the time.
  18. 18. 18 Engineering Myths and Truths Only certain kinds of kids are going to become engineers, and there aren’t that many of them. ENGINEERING MYTHS AND TRUTHS MYTH
  19. 19. 19 ENGINEERING MYTHS AND TRUTHS Exposing children to engineering gives them confidence to pursue it as a career, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomics. TRUTH
  20. 20. 20 Engineering Myths and Truths You need a professional degree in math, technology, or physics in order to understand or teach engineering. ENGINEERING MYTHS AND TRUTHS MYTH
  21. 21. 21 ENGINEERING MYTHS AND TRUTHS TRUTH No particular professional degree required—just curiosity from you and your students to explore how things work.
  22. 22. 22 Engineering Myths and Truths You also need to understand the Engineering Design Process, which you are about to learn. ENGINEERING MYTHS AND TRUTHS TRUTH
  23. 23. THE EDP 23 All engineers use the engineering design process (EDP).
  24. 24. 24 THE EDP This next example illustrates what the EDP looks like in an elementary classroom.
  25. 25. EGG-CITING RIDE ACTIVITY Your Challenge Design a bungee jump for a raw egg. Materials Include • Ruler • Nylons • Rubber bands • Balloons • Yarn • Sandwich bags • Pennies
  26. 26. 26 THE EDP The Problem Make a bungee jump for a raw egg so that it won’t hit the floor when it’s dropped.
  27. 27. 27 THE EDP The Specs • The materials provided • The height of the drop (5') • How far from the floor the egg needs to stop (2")
  28. 28. 28 THE EDP Brainstorm • Play with materials • Talk about different ideas
  29. 29. 29 THE EDP Build • Designs will evolve • It’s a messy, loud stage • It’s worth it…it makes engineering come to life!
  30. 30. 30 THE EDP • Set up testing zone • Record results • Redesign to improve • Add requirements for kids who need more of a challenge Test, Improve, Redesign
  31. 31. 31 THE EDP Share It! • Students present their solutions • Discuss what worked, what didn’t • Say what they liked about each other’s designs
  32. 32. 32 Engineers move back and forth among these steps. They might share results at any point, for example, and use feedback to go back to brainstorming. THE EDP THE PROCESS
  33. 33. 33 Students will try to skip steps, like design, and go right to build. When planning, decide how much time students will spend on each step. You’ll also notice some activities emphasize certain steps more than others. TIP THE EDP
  34. 34.  Engineering design process  Scientific inquiry  Project-based learning 34 CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS Three Teaching Methods
  35. 35. 35  Creativity  Communication  Critical Thinking  Collaboration Share Key Characteristics
  36. 36. 36 In all three approaches, the teacher becomes a guide and trouble shooter, rather than main conveyor of information. CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS STUDENTS LEARN BY DOING
  37. 37. 37 The second part of the formula is combining the messages with a hands–on activity Learning by doing helps students understand why failure is such an important part of the process.
  38. 38. 38 How do you turn engineering into something you can do in an elementary classroom, on a tight schedule? YOU’VE SEEN THE BENEFITS . . . CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS
  39. 39. 39 Life in the Middle Ages Unit Design a Catapult Activity
  40. 40. DESIGN A CAPAPULT ACTIVITY Your Challenge Design and build a small-scale catapult to launch a projectile and hit a target. Materials Include • Projectiles • Craft sticks • Rubber bands • Bottle caps
  41. 41.  The best angle for launching the projectile  The properties of levers, like: o Force o Tension o Mechanical advantage  How history is shaped by engineering 41 CATAPULTS SHOWCASE CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS
  42. 42.  Reveal underlying technology  Reinforce science and math concepts  Motivate students: they’re fun! 42 ENGINEERING ACTIVITIES CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS
  43. 43. 43 CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS Find activities at:
  44. 44. 44 Idea 1: Invite engineers to your classroom to talk to your students.
  45. 45. 45 ENGINEERING SUGGESTIONS  Local university  Local chapters of engineering societies  Local engineering companies FIND GUEST ENGINEERS
  46. 46. 46 Turn explorations into design challenges. For example, a lesson about how plants absorb nutrients includes, “what’s a way to keep a plant from drying out if you can’t be there to water it?” ENGINEERING SUGGESTIONS IDEA 2
  47. 47. A CLEVER WAY TO WATER ACTIVITY Your Challenge Keep a potted plant watered for a week with nobody around to do it. Materials Include • Plastic containers • Small plants • Cotton string • Scissors • Newspaper • Water
  48. 48. 48 Ask your students to illustrate their own engineering design process posters. Post a few on the wall and swap them out for other students’ work every week. ENGINEERING SUGGESTIONS IDEA 3
  49. 49. 49 Idea 4: Invite students to imagine something to make the world a better place and speculate about how an engineer would make it happen.
  50. 50. 50 When you do an engineering activity, talk about the EDP and refer to the posters to make the connection explicit. ENGINEERING SUGGESTIONS IDEA 5
  51. 51. 51 In your professional learning community or grade-level team, see where engineering could be incorporated. ENGINEERING SUGGESTIONS IDEA 6
  52. 52. 52 Idea 7: Ask students to watch, listen, or read a news article about a problem in their community that engineers are solving..
  53. 53. 53 Display photos of common tools and machines we use every day and ask which ones engineers invented (all of them). Then ask, “What would you do if this thing hadn’t been invented?” ENGINEERING SUGGESTIONS IDEA 8
  54. 54. 54 That’s it! You’re ready to bring engineering alive for your students. How are you going to begin?
  55. 55. Funding for this training was provided by: