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Children’s Engineering Workshop at Hopkins Elementary

Mon, 01/09/2012 - 3:08pm -- WCVE

What do a roll of aluminum foil, a box of drinking straws, a handful of pennies and a bag of marshmallows have in common? They are all fabulous tools for children to use when solving engineering problems.

On June 15, 2011, Hopkins Elementary School in Chesterfield County, engaged students in grades K- 5 in a dynamic and interactive Children’s Engineering Workshop. In every class, inspirational teachers used innovative teaching strategies to facilitate problem solving by their students. The purpose of the day was for teachers to challenge their students to solve real-world problems by using engineering models.

To celebrate the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum at Hopkins, students were given the opportunity to explore what it is like to be an engineer. Every grade level was given a design brief which posed a specific problem and included select guidelines. The rest of the challenge was up to the students to explore. Teachers facilitated as teams of students asked probing questions and experimented with materials to solve their particular design challenge. According to Dr. Melanie Haimes-Bartolf, this day was all about “getting students excited about problem solving. We want them to experience when it does and doesn’t work. We want our students to have skills, knowledge and abilities, but to also know how to translate them into real world activities.”

In the kindergarten classes, students learned about plants and different aspects of plant pollination. As each child tested their pollinator constructed of drinking straws, they asked questions and created a chart of the results. You could hear energetic “wows” from the crowd when several pollinators were especially successful.

Fifth grade students worked in teams to design and construct solar cookers made of aluminum foil, cardboard, and other elements. After the design process, each team tested its solar cooker outside to see which one would yield the best results. Students analyzed each design, discussed environmental factors, and made predictions of possible results.

This was a wonderful way to end the 2011 school year with students and teachers having fun while exploring important scientific and engineering problems.

For more information about engineering programs for elementary schools visit Children’s Engineering for Educators (CEE) and Science Museum of Boston's Engineering is Elementary (EiE).