Goldfein and Cheryl Nelson of Get Caught Engineering, an
integrated hands-on engineering program with their post on finding room in your classroom for Engineering. Enjoy!
When we first decided to develop an engineering program for
our school, our administrator was very supportive. However, he only had one
request: “Please don’t tick off the staff!” We knew that our greatest challenge
would be proving to the faculty that this could be a great addition to what
they were already teaching, not an “add-on” to their already overloaded
program. As we began our slow roll out of STEM lessons that could be integrated
into the curriculum, our search for and creation of integrated engineering
lessons into history, math, health, art, and of course science. Perhaps surprising, literature has been our
biggest STEM integration success due to the fact that literature is such an
integral part of the elementary school curriculum and usually teachers have a
large block of time for language arts.
Literature has the potential to present situations that can challenge
students’ imaginations. Stories can serve to encourage student to begin to
problem solve, generate design proposals, and make connections to engineering.
you could help out the characters? Discuss the plot and characters of the
story. Can we improve the situation in the story?
upright? Using a Popsicle sticks, straws or toothpicks for materials and a hair
drier to represent the Big Bad Wolf, have the students design a house that
won’t blow down. The same lesson could be adapted for the
the story continued? Brainstorm what would be some of the natural consequences
from the story. What could have happened?
about her encounter with the bears? She definitely wasn’t happy!
after the beast changes back to a prince? Engineering a confetti launcher will
provide an appropriate festive touch to the story. Empty toilet paper and paper
towel rolls become launchers and leftover tissue paper can be confetti.
What if the
characters had better materials or tools? Is there an item mentioned in the
story that we can redesign or improve?
had amazing webs. Can we do that? Using string and a wire hanger, students can
engineer a web and test its strength.
of people using our hair for a ladder? What else can we create that would help
her out? Can we use our knowledge of pulleys to engineer an improved system to
get in the tower?
the characters had different tools to solve their problem? What problems do the
characters encounter? Can we develop a product, tool, or system to help them?
the Gingerbread Man had encountered a sailboat or even a boat with a propeller
to help him get away? This is a problem that could be solved by students of
varying ages as they solve the Gingerbread man’s problems by engineering boats.
Need a river in the classroom? No problem. Get an 8-foot plastic rain gutter
from the hardware store, cap the ends, add water, and…” voila”… you have a
river for testing!
considerably if he had had a few tools to help him. What if he had a tool to
grab the golden egg? Students can be
challenged to engineer a mechanical extension in order to grab something from a
the story ended differently? Think about what happened after the story ends?
doesn’t want to live with her in–laws! Using recycled cardboard; create a new
castle for Cinderella. Start adding criteria such as size, turrets, a drawbridge
and you have a review lesson for math and simple machines.
to return to have tea with the Mad Hatter, can the students create a ramp and
slide that will allow her to drop a specified distance in a certain amount of
science or math can we connect to the story?
out of fairy dust to help us fly, why not create a prototype for a zip wire?
Force, motion, acceleration, and gravity will all be explored as it is
engineered and tested.
is great place to start, but by looking at the curriculum for a grade level, with
an engineering lens, connections become apparent. Ancient history leads to
building and testing pyramids, columns and arches. Art lessons can lead to
paper engineering projects or snap circuit spin art. Include veggie car races
to help students remember good nutrition choices in health. Simple machines and
physical science becomes very intriguing if one has to apply the concepts to a
Rube Goldberg contraption. Each can be developed into lessons that take
students through the engineering design process of: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create,
Test, and Improve.
bet once you start looking for the STEM links, you and your students will “Get
Caught Engineering” regularly.
Goldfein and Cheryl Nelson have developed Get Caught Engineering, an
integrated hands-on engineering program. They share their ideas about STEM and
children’s engineering at workshops, conferences, conventions, and museums
throughout the United States. They invite you to explore their web, blog,
Facebook page, Pinterest boards and Teacher Pay Teacher’s store that all focus