Assessing the Implications of Solutions is an Engineering Habit of Mind

Posted by Kate Sokol on 1/24/17 11:00 AM

Today’s guest blogger is Kate Sokol, a curriculum designer for EiE.

EIE 2015 JR_1105 resized.jpgAs a curriculum writer for Engineering is Elementary, I’m always thinking about developing activities that promote engineering habits of mind. Many habits of mind; like “collaboration,” “communication,” and “creativity”; naturally integrate with the type of hands-on engineering activities that we develop, and are often used to describe the work of engineers. Other habits, like the call for “ethical considerations,” require deliberate reflection to fully integrate into the K-8 classroom. The idea of ethics in engineering may seem like a daunting topic to navigate with students, but the power of critical thinking and the opportunity for students to consider the impact of their decisions has never been more important.

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind

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

Investigating Materials Properties is an Engineering Habit of Mind

Posted by Annie Whitehouse on 11/10/16 11:00 AM

2016.02.16_Habits_of_Mind_Logo-resized.jpgWe’ve told you about EiE’s engineering habits of mind—positive strategies for problem solving that help define success not only in engineering but also across the curriculum. At EiE, we believe that a well-designed engineering curriculum can help students develop as many as 16 unique engineering habits of mind. Investigating the properties and uses of materials is a habit of mind that is an essential foundation to engineering education—it allows students to make informed decisions as they plan, create, and improve their technologies.

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind

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

Math Lessons Go Better With Engineering

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 10/4/16 1:00 PM

The Common Core State Standards for math are pushing elementary educators to re-think how to teach math. How do you go beyond skills like adding and subtracting or the times tables to help kids develop a deep understanding of math concepts? Engineering activities are an ideal framework for meeting this challenge. 

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind

Join EiE at #NSTA2016 to Learn About "Engineering Habits of Mind"

Posted by Christine Cunningham on 3/31/16 11:00 AM

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Christine M. Cunningham, founder and director of Engineering is Elementary.


Not long ago, engineering was an academic subject mainly reserved for college students. But as states put new science standards in place, many elementary teachers face the expectation that their students must learn engineering concepts and skills. Can you really teach engineering to very young students? I’ve been working in the field of K-12 engineering for more than a decade; based on my own research and that of others, the answer is a resounding yes.  I’ll be talking about this today at 3:30 at the NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Nashville (Davidson A1, Music City Center). Here’s a sneak preview of my presentation.

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind

How Do You Measure Engineering Learning?

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 3/15/16 11:00 AM

The new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are bringing engineering into elementary classrooms. They're opening the door to new ways of learning, but these standards also pose a challenge when it comes to assessments. Engineering is a team effort, but most assessments are designed to be taken by individual students.

2015.05.05_E4.jpgWhen kids work in a group, what can you say about each individual student with respect to level of engagement? Performance? Learning progress? EiE is developing new assessments that address these questions as component of E4, an NSF-funded study that compares the effectiveness of two elementary engineering curricula.

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind, Assessment

Collaborating is an Engineering Habit of Mind

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 3/8/16 11:00 AM

Read any help-wanted ad these days. Chances are, the job requires someone who’s a “team player.” As the EiE Blog continues to explore how early experience with engineering helps develop “engineering habits of mind” (ways of thinking that support learning across the curriculum), let’s take a look at a valuable skill in school and at work, the habit of collaborating.Engineering a Model Membrane

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind

Ask EiE: What to Do About Engineering Fails

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 11/19/15 11:00 AM

Each Thursday on the EiE Blog, we bring you tips for teaching elementary engineering. Today's guest blogger is EiE professional development provider Elissa Jordan.

A teacher works with students on the EiE acoustic engineering challenge.When I work with teachers who are just starting to implement Engineering is Elementary, I often see resistance to the idea that failure is highly valued in engineering.

When a student designs a technology that doesn’t work as intended—say, a model maglev train that doesn’t levitate, or a solar oven that doesn’t get hot enough—it’s distressing! We want students to have positive, affirming experiences in school, not be discouraged.

So it's tempting to “help” kids who seem to be making ineffective design choices by purposefully leading them to better ideas. It seems like a supportive strategy. But in fact, it can be counterproductive.

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind, EiE Teaching Tips

Teaching Persistence . . . and Practicing It

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 5/26/15 11:00 AM

2015.05.26.EiE._Richard_Sutton-1Occasionally on the EiE Blog, we introduce you to the folks on our team and the work they do. Today, meet Richard Sutton, research coordinator. We’ve got a mountain of data coming in from a major, NSF-funded study, and Richard is the gatekeeper. Student assessments, journals, performance evaluations . . . more than 200,000 pieces of data must be entered into our system, and Richard makes it happen.

Richard is a noteworthy EiE’er for another reason. Over the past several months on the blog, we’ve been talking about engineering habits of mind. His personal story is a perfect example of the habit of mind of persistence.

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind