This past school year, our school was able to participate in a pilot program - EIE - Engineering is Elementary in our district. The different units offered by EIE explore the world of engineering. The students can learn about mechanical, electrical, civil, environmental, industrial engineering and more depending on the unit.
Grade level by grade level, the teachers at my school where sent to a training to learn about an exciting new program we were asked to implement. At first it seemed like "one more extra thing" but during and after the unit, I realized that it was more than that.
In March and April, my third graders completed a project-based task while learning about the Engineering Process.
We completed the Catching the Wind: Designing Windmills Unit from EIE.
We read a story about a boy named Leif, who needed to save the fish or "fisk" in the pond. With the help of his friend, they explored the Engineering Process and found a solution for their problem.
Over the course of five weeks, we explored the idea of what technology was along with what an engineer is and does. There were lessons embedded in the unit to help students along the way understand the Engineering Process.
At the end of the unit, we created our own windmills in groups of three. (see picture) The materials were provided through the district. My students had to design the blades for their windmill. The blades had to be able to move with the wind from a fan. On the opposite end of the shaft there was a string with a bucket (paper cup). The task was to have the blades move and lift up the bucket that held the metal washers. One group was able to lift 34 metal washers.
During the lessons, each student was engaged -it didn't matter of the academic level of a student, by working together - they all were able to all contribute something meaningful to accomplish the task. My student definitely enjoyed the hands on learning while designing, creating and implementing a solution to the problem presented in the unit. To tell you the truth, I enjoyed more.
I have always taught this way but now I had a name to the process. After completed the unit, I have an increased desire to read more about the Engineering Process and STEM.