Novel engineering is a way for elementary students to use literature as a basis for design challenges. It helps students to identify problems in their text, design solutions to overcome these problems, and engage in projects to test their solutions.
Mrs. Sayre, our LRC Director, helped our second graders with this project. We began by reading Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. This novel is about the character Clementine, who is having a ‘not so good week.’ In fact, she is having a DISASTROUS week! She encounters many problems in school and at home, and her solutions are not entirely appropriate and often get her in trouble. To help Clelmentine with her problems, our students followed the Novel Engineering steps as follows:
1. Read a book and identify problems - Through discussion and attentive reading, students collect problems that characters face.
2. Scope problems and brainstorm solutions - Students consider the needs of the story's character/client and the context/constraints imposed by the text as they brainstorm possible solutions.
3. Design a solution - Students work in teams to plan and build a functional prototype that addresses the character's needs and constraints.
4. Get feedback - Students test their solutions as they build and get feedback from their teacher and/or peers.
5. Improve designs - Students use information gathered during testing and presentations to improve and revise their designs.
6. Share - Teams can either present their final solution or reflections on their process to the class, write a story that includes their solution, or make an advertisement for their solution. 1
Once we finished the novel, we brainstormed other possible solutions for Clementine’s problems with Mrs. Sayre. We used these solutions to independently design one solution for one of Clementine’s problems. We then worked as a small group to use parts of each of our plans to design a suitable group solution to the problem we had selected. The fun part was building our solution from recyclable materials. We tested our design, made improvements if necessary, and presented it to the whole group. By sharing our solutions we were able to demonstrate our ideas and exchange design ideas with others. Our solutions are seen below.
The benefits of our Novel Engineering project were total engagement in learning, enhancing comprehension as the students used evidence from the text, integrating different disciplines in common core standards, introducing students to engineering problems, and engaging students in the engineering process through teamwork and communication. The second graders thoroughly enjoyed this learning experience that supports STEM in education.