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My article called Adding the ‘E’ to STEM: Engineering at Taipei American School Lower School was publishing in The EARCOS Journal, Spring, 2013. You can find it on page 17 just follow this link:
Engineering in First Grade
The Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum was enhanced in grade one at the Taipei American School this year when we introduced two new hands-on projects in engineering. The projects, which connect directly to our existing science units, are called Engineering is Elementary and were developed by the Museum of Science in Boston.
During first semester, we studied Solids and Liquids in science followed by a Chemical Engineering Unit called, A Work in Process: Improving a Play Dough Process. The steps in the Engineering Design Process are: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve. First grade students used the Engineering Design Process to improve the play dough using flour, salt and water. Students improved the process by changing the amounts of the materials used and/or the order of the steps in the process.
First graders worked with a partner to develop their best play dough. There were 10 steps in the process that the students could reorder. It was amazing to see the high level of problem solving that was involved within each partnership. They liked the challenge of mixing the 3 ingredients to improve their play dough. There was a high level of learning from all the groups as they completed the testing. Through the Engineering Design Process cooperation was encouraged, results were shared, and the play dough was improved. Our goal was accomplished!
In the second semester, we studied Air and Weather in science followed by a Mechanical Engineering Unit called, Catching the Wind: Designing Windmills. In this unit, students discovered and discussed wind and methods that engineers use to capture energy. They brainstormed, planned, built, tested, and improved their own windmill blades.
Pairs of students worked together to design their windmill blades. They had to decide on the materials, shape, number, and angle of blades. As they tested their blades, they first had to make sure the blades would spin. Then they added weights to test how many washers their windmill could lift. The more weight lifted meant a more efficient and powerful windmill. There was a lot of learning going on as the first designs were tested. Some blades were too small or at an inefficient angle so the blades did not spin. Because of the high level of student cooperation during this process all of the blade designs improved with the second design. All of the blades were able to spin and lift between 10 and 20 washers. There was a high level of learning and success with the Engineering Design Process. Project-based learning by engineering windmills was amazing to witness with each and every engaged first grader!
The first grade students have asked for more engineering projects. Because of the success of these two STEM projects in first grade, the students at TAS will have more opportunities in Kindergarten through Grade 5 to continue to experience engineering in the future!
Why teach engineering to children?
- Children are fascinated with building and with taking things apart to see how they work.
- Engineering projects integrate other disciplines.
- Engineering fosters problem-solving skills, including problem formation, iteration, and testing of alternative solutions.
- Engineering embraces project-based learning, encompasses hands-on construction, and sharpens children’s abilities to function in three dimensions.
- Learning about engineering will increase students’ awareness of and access to scientific and technical careers.
There is no doubt that engineering and technological literacy are necessary for the 21st century. We are preparing our children to succeed in a rapidly changing world and in engineering that preparation starts in grade one at TAS.
For more information contact Scott Middleton, First Grade Teacher at the Taipei American School. firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprinted from The Window Magazine, Fall, 2012, Taipei American School
First graders at the Taipei American School have designed and tested windmills. This excellent STEM curriculum has been developed at the Museum of Science in Boston. It is called Engineering is Elementary: Designing Windmills. Our first graders develop problem solving skills by using the Engineering Design Process.
This STEM project was conducted by first graders at TAS. It is called Enginering is Elementary. The first graders had to improve the play dough process. They could do this by changing the order of the steps or changing the amount of flour, salt and water.
They used the Engineering Design Process to help them. The steps are: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve. This is a circular process that the first graders used to repeat and improve their play dough. Every first grade partnership was able to improve their play dough. Everyone was successful. This was an excellent STEM project.