Cynthia Berger

Cynthia Berger is manager for communications at Engineering is Elementary, a project of the Museum of Science, Boston

Recent Posts

Systems Thinking is an Engineering Habit of Mind

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 1/10/17 11:00 AM

The students in Jean Facchiano's fourth-grade class have spent the morning engineering their own models of permeable membranes, using ordinary kitchen supplies like sponges, coffee filters, and perforated aluminum foil. The goal is to design a system that lets water drip into a frog habitat, keeping the container slightly damp, not dry or flooded.

Each group of students has come up with their own unique system for controlling water flow into the habitat. Now, in the video below, the students present their results. It's not just a show-and-tell; it's a concise demonstration of elementary students starting to apply their systems-thinking skills.

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind

Engineering is Perfect for K–5 Project-Based Learning

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 12/6/16 11:00 AM

Kids designing parachutes
These students designed parachutes to land a space rover on another planet!

Check last month's education news and you'll notice third graders at a school in Cleveland designed a restaurant, middle schoolers in Cincinnati were tending beehives, and sixth graders in Michigan strategized about how to protect Earth from the damaging effects of solar flares. These somewhat offbeat activities are part of a wider trend to make project-based learning a fundamental aspect of the school day.

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Topics: Early Childhood STEM Education

Resources for K-5 Engineering Are Just a Click Away!

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 11/17/16 11:00 AM

Screenshot of where to find the resources

Your EiE Teacher Guide offers more than just lesson plans; it has teaching tips, assessment, and other useful extras. Did you know the EiE website is also packed with handy resources that help you teach elementary engineering? With our latest web redesign, these helpful teaching tools are more find-able than ever! Just click the “EiE Resources” tab and let us take you on a tour . . .

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Topics: EiE Teaching Tips

A Lesson Comes to Life as Students Recreate EiE Storybook Scenario

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 11/15/16 11:00 AM

storybook cover collage-resized.jpgEiE storybook characters are diverse by design. There are 20 different protagonists, all from different backgrounds, races, family situations, and abilities, and it’s for one good reason: students feel inspired when they read stories about someone they can identify with.

This intentional diversity was a plus for Claudine Conover, a PreK-5 science teacher at a small school in the Bronx, as she searched for STEM lessons that would resonate with her students.

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Topics: Implementing EiE

Top 7 Tips for Getting a STEM Grant

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 11/3/16 11:00 AM

Make your dream a reality

Maybe you’ve had this frustrating experience: You’ve identified a curriculum that you’re excited about. You feel confident it will help your school meet STEM education goals AND it will be engaging for kids. But budgets are tight and there’s no funding to make it happen. This is
not the end of the story! Consider applying for
a grant.

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Topics: Scholarships and Awards

Helping a Boy in Haiti: Engineering Makes Real-World Connections

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 11/1/16 11:00 AM

Presenting our EDP
California teacher Camie Walker has become an advocate for elementary engineering.

When Camie Walker chose an EiE activity for her fifth-grade classroom two years ago, she was thinking about how the lessons would complement her plans for English Language Arts instruction. She never expected that the real-world engineering design challenge would help her students become more resilient in the face of failure . . . or move them to meaningful social action on behalf of a young boy left destitute by a natural disaster.

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Topics: Implementing EiE

For Chicago’s Diverse-Needs Students, EiE Works

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 10/25/16 11:00 AM

Marys Classroom-resized.jpgBack in the 1920s, the Christopher School was built to serve students with disabilities, including many affected by polio. Today, this Chicago public school serves an unusually diverse student population. “Our mission statement is “Teach ALL, Reach All, Include All,” says Mary Meade, the school’s middle-school science coordinator. “Regular education students learn alongside students with severe and profound physical and cognitive disabilities.” 

Like every teacher, Mary needs lessons that help every student learn. She also looks for lessons that relate to the real world. That’s how she discovered Engineering Everywhere (EE), EiE’s out-of-school-time curriculum for ages 10–12.

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Topics: Out-of-School time

Learning from Failure

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 10/20/16 11:00 AM

Failure is Not an Option is the title of Gene Kranz’s autobiography. The phrase expresses how Kranz, a NASA flight director, and his team approached problems of all kinds—most notably, how to get the Apollo 13 astronauts home safely after a disastrous explosion in the service module. When I was fresh out of school and working my first job, I had a coffee cup with this slogan. The idea is common in American culture: in the workplace, in relationships, in schools. Both students AND teachers can learn from failure!

For the Apollo mission, a no-failure mindset was exactly what the team needed to find a solution, and fast. But framing success as the only option is a problem in schools, especially in the elementary classroom—and especially if classroom instruction is focused on getting the one right answer.

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind

EiE Releases Guide to Learning Trajectories for K-8 Engineering

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 10/18/16 11:00 AM

table-1.jpgThe idea of integrating engineering with traditional K-12 subjects is still pretty new. If you’re a teacher looking online for age-appropriate engineering lessons, you may find what’s on offer is too challenging­—or too simplistic—for your students.  And if you’re a curriculum developer, you won’t find many resources to show what kinds of engineering kids are capable of at different ages. That’s why EiE’s research team has developed a concise set of Engineering Learning Trajectories for ages 3–12.

Understanding How Kids Learn

The new learning trajectories draw on EiE’s extensive research on “how children learn engineering.” “Kids who are twelve have different skills and abilities than kids who are three,” says EiE director Christine Cunningham. “That may seem obvious, but it’s easy to overlook.”

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Topics: EiE Research Results

Meet Our Illustrator: Ross Wiley Brings Engineering Stories to Life

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 10/11/16 11:00 AM

Ross at EiE
Ross reviews his work, displayed at the EiE offices.

This fall EiE welcomed a special visitor to our Boston offices: illustrator Ross Wiley. If you’ve been entertained by the offbeat adventures of India and Jacob, the traveling teens who host Engineering Adventures, or fascinated by the exploding corncob on the cover of Plants to Plastics, you have Ross to thank! He created all the illustrations for our two out-of-school-time curricula, along with the cover art and illustrations for eight EiE storybooks and teacher guides.

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Topics: Profiles