We see children as engineers. They plan and design, build and test, and communicate their ideas through their work.
Last week at the Arizona Science and Engineering Fair (AzSEF), Arizona Science Center engaged children in open-ended engineering using gigantic foam blocks. Children piled, placed, stacked and even tumbled these uniquely shaped blocks to create imaginative figures and forms. Through the experience of making choices about the pieces they use and exploring their own interests, children have the opportunity to problem-solve, work collaboratively, and construct knowledge about engineering in the world around them. These skills are not just important for success in school, but they are also meaningful skills that children will need and use for the rest of their lives.
For example, while students were building, Arizona Science Center’s Stephanie helped two sixth grade girls hold up their structure as they collected more pieces. The girls designed a “human-like robot” and learned to balance the weight equally between the bottom and top of the structure. They built knowledge about cause and effect and learned how to communicate effectively between each other.
A seventh grade boy fit another rounded block on top. He placed two plastic balls in the sockets. The head began to lean forward and to solve the dilemma, the boy figured out which pieces would hold the weight in a more balanced way. He decided that heavier pieces should go nearer to the bottom to act as a structural base.
Together, the students collaborated to create a structure that was functional and self-sustaining.
How do you encourage engineering skills in your kids or students?