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

What Do Kids Learn When They Engineer?

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 5/5/15 2:17 PM

The new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are bringing engineering into elementary classrooms, opening the door to new ways of learning but also posing 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

Math Lessons Go Better With Engineering

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 3/31/15 8:17 AM

The Common Core State Standards for math are pushing elementary educators to re-think how to teach math. How do you go beyond facts and skills like adding and subtracting or the times tables to helping kids develop a deep understanding of math concepts? measure_parachute

Using Your Math Skills is an Engineering Habit of Mind

Engineering activities are an ideal framework for meeting this challenge. Since January, the EiE Blog has been exploring “engineering habits of mind”—ways of thinking that kids develop as they engage in hands-on engineering activities. One habit that engineering promotes extremely well is the ability (and inclination!) to apply math knowledge to problem-solving. Kids love to tinker and build stuff, and classroom engineering puts these natural inclinations right to work.

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind

Creativity: An Engineering Habit of Mind

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 3/3/15 12:23 PM

In college I had a biology professor who insisted you don’t need fancy lab instruments to do real research, just duct tape and baling wire. He challenged us to make our own research tools, and the results were pretty creative: one classmate who wanted to compare the toughness of different tree leaves made a “puncture-o-meter” out of rubber bands and a sharpened paper clip. Low-tech pipe cleaners are part of this “hand pollinator.”

Young children love this kind of tinkering and problem solving. Check the EiE Video Snippet below to see the creative ways one group of first graders solved the design challenge from the EiE unit “Best of Bugs,” using materials like pipe cleaners and pompoms to engineer a device for pollinating flowers by hand.

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind

Embracing Multiple Solutions is an Engineering Habit of Mind

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 1/27/15 12:38 PM

We’re exploring engineering habits of mind on the EiE Blog, and this week’s topic is the habit of “thinking flexibly and exploring multiple solutions.” Which brings to mind an experience I had at the EiE retreat last fall.retreat2

Retreats give us a chance to test new engineering activities that we might include in our curricula. This time, we tried out a biomedical engineering design challenge for Engineering Everywhere, our afterschool curriculum for middle-schoolers.

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind

Working in Teams is an Engineering Habit of Mind

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 1/20/15 2:14 PM

Read any help-wanted ad these days. Chances are good 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 both in the field of engineering and in school in general) let’s take a look at a valuable skill in school and at work, the habit of collaborating.Engineer_Model_Membrane_Transparent

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind

There Is No Engineering without Science

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 1/13/15 2:11 PM

All this month on the EiE blog, we’re using short videos that capture candid moments in elementary classrooms to look at how kids develop “engineering habits of mind” (ways of thinking that support lifelong learning). Today we look at the habit of “applying science knowledge to solve a problem through engineering."

explore_magnets

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind

The Power of Being Persistent

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 1/7/15 10:38 AM

UPenn psychologist Angela Duckworth launched a media frenzy with her 2013 TED Talk on “grit.” This trait, she asserted, is essential for school success; students who have grit stay motivated in the face of adversity and even outright failure. Persistent

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind

Look in the Mirror, See an Engineer

Posted by Cynthia Berger on 12/16/14 12:03 PM

This month on the EiE Blog we’re sharing candid videos from elementary classrooms that show how early experience with engineering helps students develop “engineering habits of mind,” or ways of thinking that can be the foundation for lifelong learning. Today we focus on a habit of mind that some sociologists call “agency.”

Making_Mortar_for_Wall

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Topics: Engineering Habits of Mind