Monday, October 24, 2011

Engineering is Elementary

I had a wonderful experience last week - I travelled to Boston for work to attend the "Engineering is Elementary" workshop at the Boston Museum of Science. Since traveling is definitely *not* typical in my job, I was absolutely thrilled to go! I learned so much during the workshop and was in great company. The three women I traveled with made the whole trip memorable and exciting.

It is not often that I get excited about curriculum materials... but EiE is truly a refreshing and novel concept for elementary classrooms. Besides incorporating rigorous engineering challenges into the classroom (fun!), students are introduced to the engineering design process -- ask questions, imagine, plan, create, and improve. Talk about authentic and meaningful experiences! Of the 20 units, some of my favorite challenges included building walls with a plethora of earth materials (and of course knocking them down), toying with a play-doh recipe (balancing liquids and solids), and designing a fan-propelled windmill. You wouldn't be surprised to hear how engaged and involved we were in the challenges, as adults!

As if EiE was not already after my heart, each unit begins with a multiculturally-based storybook presenting an engineering problem (I'm such a sucker for a good story...) Best of all, the main characters in the book are children, illustrating a powerful core value of the program - anyone can be an engineer. 

I think the most valuable thing I came home with was inspiration. The whole concept of integrating engineering in the classroom - even a kindergarten classroom - was invigorating and exciting to me! My "wheels began to spin" as I realized all the ways my students are already engineers - on the playground, at the blocks station, and in life. They are naturally curious problem-solvers, and now I feel more prepared to guide and foster these natural characteristics within the engineering design process.

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