Cynthia Berger

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

Recent Posts

Creating an Engineering Design Process for the Preschool Classroom

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 2/23/17 11:00 AM

EiE Play Dough
Engineering = hands-on play in a framework

Happy National Engineers Week! This week on the blog, we're celebrating by highlighting our favorite engineering tool: the Engineering Design Process!

When our son was three, he would spend hours playing with wooden blocks, making a highway for toy cars, a pen for toy animals, or just the highest tower he could stack. We didn’t think of it this way, but he was engineering.

Early childhood educators have always recognized how building with blocks (and similar hands-on activities) help children develop motor skills while at the same time exercising their creativity. But these activities can also be framed as authentic engineering. That’s something the EiE curriculum team is working on right now: a framework for preschool engineering.

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Topics: Early Childhood STEM Education

EiE Teacher Tip: How to Ask Good Questions!

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 2/21/17 11:00 AM

EIE 2015 JR_1062.jpgHappy National Engineers Week! This week on the blog, we're celebrating by highlighting our favorite engineering tool: the Engineering Design Process!

Imagine this scenario. Your students have worked carefully and enthusiastically to design a technology . . . only to discover that it doesn’t work as planned. When that sailboat doesn’t sail, or that model maglev train fails to levitate over the track, it’s a teachable moment. You want to be ready, not with answers, but with questions that help students do their own troubleshooting.

Education journalist Steven Hastings once calculated that a typical teacher asks 400 questions a day, or roughly one question a minute. That extrapolates to 70,000 questions a year, or 2 to 3 million questions over the course of a teaching career. But not all questions are created equal. Certain questioning strategies are particularly effective; here are four of our favorites.

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Topics: EiE Teaching Tips

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

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 2/16/17 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

Ask EiE: Can I Omit the Improve Step?

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 1/31/17 11:00 AM

Q: When my students work on an engineering design challenge, do they HAVE to do the "Improve" step? It takes extra time, and I feel like they've already learned what they need to know from their first designs.

A: Please don't skip the "Improve" step! That's when crucial learning happens.

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Topics: EiE Teaching Tips

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

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