STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
To be honest, when I first think of engineers, my initial thought is collegiate level students. Subtract more than a decade and you have natural-born engineers. Children create, build models, fail and try again, think critically, and problem solve. They ARE engineers. As teachers, it is our job to ignite that fire, and let their talents shine. As much as I believe this to be true, actually seeing my students take on this role and succeed is truly amazing and inspiring...
"First graders, you are engineers!" ...crickets...
Back-story: We had just finished reading our Scholastic News about a world-famous engineer, Benjamin Franklin. Famous for his many inventions: bifocals, Franklin stove, and the lightning rod.... to name a few. Benjamin Franklin helped solve various problems for people's everyday living.
After telling them they were engineers, I prompted them with a problem. "Goldilocks needs our help. She needs a new bed to stay safe from the three bears!" I asked, "How would you stay safe from the three bears? What does this look like in your mind?"
Then I introduced them to the most high-end materials that engineers use: cardboard, cotton balls, straws, pipe cleaners, note cards, paper towel rolls, and tape. Each child was given a "Goldilocks" and began picking out materials to create their special bed.
From then on, it was 100% engagement. Students were enthralled in their design. I could truly feel the positive energy. It was a great feeling to see and witness all the students being successful. There was no right or wrong, no strong or weak, but instead the pure feeling of success in every child's heart. The conversations they engaged in, the smiles on their faces, and their determination to succeed was moving.
Throughout the project, I captured a few moments of their brainstorming, feelings, struggles, and reflections.
"Before taping my project, I am going to put it where I want it to be. That way, if I make a mistake, I can take it apart." -Chloe
"I just kept belly breathing and didn't quit. Isn't it great?!" -Savannah (Twenty minutes into her project, Savannah abandoned her original idea and completely revamped her project successfully!)
"This reminds me of Minecraft." -Ian
"Science is really fun!" -Jayden
"If her room gets hit by lightning, she will be safe with the lightning rod on top." -Adelynn (incorporating her new learning from the Scholastic News article into her creation)
From this experience, I am reminded how truly talented our young engineers are. I ask myself "How might we do this ALL the time?" Their hard work inspires me to continue to provide learning opportunities this way more often, and I encourage you to "Put the 'E' in STEM". And with that, I leave you with this quote by Benjamin Franklin: "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn."
Learn more about student engineers and the research behind it all here.