You’ll Go Wild for These Four Animal-Themed Engineering Activities

Posted by Annie Whitehouse on 4/11/17 11:00 AM

elephant.jpgAt EiE, we’ve learned that the best way to get kids interested in engineering is to connect to a subject they care about. Every kid is different—some might be interested in transportation technologies, while others would rather learn about ice cream. But we know that many kids share a common interest: caring for and protecting animals. Engineering can play a big part in the care and keeping of animals, and we’ve seen how much that can motivate kids to design and improve technologies. In honor of National Pet Day, check out these storybooks and in- and out-of-school-time curriculum units, guaranteed to be a wild success in your classroom or OST program!

Fishing for Solutions

wm_cover-1.jpgFor many kids whose families are hesitant about bringing a furry creature into their lives, a fish is the first pet they learn to care for. In Leif Catches the Wind, the storybook from the in-school unit Catching the Wind: Designing Windmills, a boy named Leif tends to his fish in his home country of Denmark. When his cousin Dana calls to ask about the sick fish in her pond, Leif uses his knowledge of fish and his mother’s turbine expertise to help Dana design a windmill to pump air into the pond and save the fish. Kids with a soft spot for fish will connect with Leif’s story, which gives them a solid background for their engineering challenge: designing sailboats and windmills that catch the wind.

Jumping for Joy

Have you ever seen a group of kids huddled in a circle at recess, only to find that they were watching, transfixed, as a frog hopped across the playground? Frogs are a source of endless fascination to many kids, which is why they connect with Juan Daniel, protagonist of Juan Daniel’s Fútbol Frog. In this storybook, the companion to the unit Just Passing Through: Designing Model Membranes, a boy named Juan Daniel from El Salvador sees a frog at his fútbol match. The frog brings good luck to Juan Daniel’s team, but its skin is too dry, and it is in danger of dying before it can return to the rainforest. Juan Daniel works to design a model membrane to keep the frog’s skin moist, and the healthy frog watches as the team is victorious in the final match. In this design challenge, kids work to combine materials to make their own frog habitats, and thinking of protecting a frog like Juan Daniel’s keeps them focused and driven to succeed.

A River of Possibilites

wf_cover.jpgWater pollution affects many species around the world, and kids quickly sympathize with creatures who need a cleaner environment to live in. In Saving Salila’s Turtle, the storybook from the in-school unit Water, Water Everywhere: Designing Water Filters, a girl in India named Salila is inspired to design filters that will help purify the Ganges River after she finds a turtle in distress. Kids will be inspired by Salila’s tenacity, and they’ll draw from her quick thinking and love of animals as they design their own water filters.

Engineering With a Porpoise

winter.jpgPerhaps you’ve seen the viral video of Derby the Dog, the fun-loving husky with a unique modification. Born with shortened front legs, Derby was unable to walk or run—until a team of engineers developed prosthetic limbs for Derby that help him walk, run, and jump at full speed! Derby is the star of the context-setting video for our Engineering Everywhere out-of-school-time unit, Go Fish: Designing Prosthetic Tails. Inside of the unit, kids read about an elephant with a prosthetic leg, an eagle with a prosthetic beak, and a dolphin with a prosthetic tail. They are inspired when they see how engineering can have a real, tangible effect on animals’ lives, and they carry that inspiration with them as they embark on the unit’s design challenges: creating their own prosthetic elephant legs, eagle beaks, and fish tails. You can check out the context-setting video and download a free copy of this unit on our website today!

We’re not done engineering for animals—look out for new animal-themed engineering activities in our upcoming kindergarten curriculum! In the meantime, let us know what topics get your kids excited about engineering in the comments below.

Engineering is Elementary is a project of the National Center for Technological Literacy® at the Museum of Science, Boston.

Topics: EiE Teaching Tips