Engineering, the science that applies science and mathematics in order to solve problems and create tools of use to humankind, is more important than ever in the global, technological world. However, until recently, engineering topics have rarely been introduced to students before the high school or even college levels.
Engineering is Elementary Units for K-6 Classrooms
As a part of the National Center for Technological Literacy (NCTL), the Engineering is Elementary team of scientists and educators at the Museum of Science in Boston aim to bring engineering lessons to K-6 classrooms.
Each unit includes preparatory lessons that act as advanced organizers and encourage young students to consider engineering, technology, and the Engineering Design process. Students investigate misconceptions about technology and learn about the engineers who design these technologies. Additionally, each topic in the series is introduced with an engineering story that promotes an understanding of how engineering is used around the world to solve everyday problems.
Follow-up activities and worksheets emphasize important vocabulary and encourage students to think about the factors that are incorporated into engineering planning decisions. Since the stories take place in a variety of cultures, students are also taught to recognize that engineering is a science that is important to agricultural and industrial nations alike. These lessons also allow students to think and act like engineers as they problem solve, design, and improve upon ideas. Furthermore, hands-on engineering activities encourage students to learn from mistakes as they troubleshoot design flaws.
Current Engineering is Elementary titles, which can generally be covered in eight to ten 40-minute lessons, cover mechanical, environmental, material, civil, industrial, acoustical, agricultural, bioengineering, electrical, chemical, geotechnical, package, and transportation engineering topics. Future units to be published in 2008 and 2009 will also include civil, aerospace, eco-systems, computer science, and biomedical engineering.
The units stand alone and include both basic and advanced levels of instructions so that teachers can differentiate lessons to meet science objectives at appropriate age and ability levels.
Teacher Educator Institutes
As well as providing lessons for elementary students, the EiE provides teacher training workshops to introduce educators to the series. Additionally, workshops provide participants with information for implementing professional development within elementary schools. The Teacher Educator Institutes are presented at a variety of levels, or strands, in order to provide a progressive program of study to interested teaching professionals.