As our society becomes increasingly dependent on engineering and technology, it is more important than ever that everyone be aware of what engineers do and understand the uses and implications of the technologies they create. Yet few American citizens are technologically literate, largely because technology and engineering have not been taught in our schools (Pearson, 2004).
Children (and many adults) know shockingly little about technology and engineering. In fact, the vast majority believe the term “technology” refers only to electronics and computers and that engineering and science are basically the same (Lachapelle and Cunningham, 2007; Pearson and Young, 2002). To understand the human-made world in which we live, it is vital that we increase engineering and technological literacy among all people, even young children!
Children are born engineers—they are fascinated with designing their own creations, with taking things apart, and with figuring out how things work. In 2003, the Engineering is Elementary (EiE, www.mos.org/eie) project was initiated to take advantage of the natural curiosity of all children to cultivate their understanding and problem-solving in engineering and technology.
On January 29, the Pk-5 Whitesville Elementary teachers took part in a mini-workshop with Clay Nolan (CABOCES staff specialist for Learning Resources) about the new NYS science standards and how to incorporate engineering and hands on projects in the elementary classroom. Teachers were asked to design an earthquake-resistant building, integrating 21st century skills in a STEM activity.
The Activity; After watching Twig films about earthquakes, each group will invent an earthquake-resistant building and test the efficiency of the building according to certain criteria and constraints with the option of being reinvented. Students will also act as entrepreneurs by using job-readiness skills that enhance workplace productivity and career options based on what they learn from constructing the earthquake-resistant building. Finally, they will briefly engage with financial education and the economy in society by constructing a budget. The final activity was to reflect and collaborate their viewpoints and assess their peer’s presentation or writing.
The PK-5 teachers at the workshop reflected how engaging the activity was and how kids used various skills and content to complete the activity. Teachers noted that the students would be working and problem solving with their peers and learning the idea of trial and error, construction, mathematics, reflection and the idea that it may not work the first 5 times, but that is all part of the process of learning.
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES and Whitesville Central School