. "5 Teaching and Learning Core Engineering Concepts and Skills in Grades K–12." Engineering in K-12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2009.
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Engineering in K–12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects
asking them to make drawings. Similar results in studies of elementary students also showed a lack of innate connection between a drawing and design (Anning, 1994; Samuel, 1991; Williams, 2000). In addition, young students have difficulty creating design drawings, which involve “graphical conventions of representing scale, spatial orientation and overlap” that are unfamiliar to them (Anning, 1994).
Other kinds of representation, such as models, without intervention, may preserve only structural and superficial features. Penner et al. (1997) conducted a study in which lower level elementary school students were asked to design functional models of elbows. Prior to the modeling activity, when students discussed the purpose of a model, the recurring criteria was physical resemblance. However, after a discussion of how models differ from real things, the students began to understand the functional differences between a simple, representational drawing and a model. The children, who worked in pairs, had access to a variety of everyday materials to make their models.
At first, the children tended to see models as small, superficial copies of the thing itself. Initially, the models were copies of the form of an elbow, but they did not perform the functions of an elbow. Although some of the models could flex, the flexure was unrestrained in direction. Discussion with the children revealed that they did not isolate the motion of the elbow and that they inferred a greater range of motion based on the pivot of the shoulder. After experimenting with real elbow movements, the students made new models. This time, the models incorporated constraints but also included more nonfunctional, but physically similar, details, such as representations of veins.
Johnsey (1995) conducted a study of pre-K through fifth-grade students in the United Kingdom to investigate the role of making in design. Eight case studies of students who tried to create designs with little or no teacher intervention revealed how children think about representations. Johnsey found that making representations played a role early in the design process; that it supported other design process skills, such as clarifying, specifying, and researching; and that it occurred in tandem with planning, generating, and modeling. The activity could generally be considered a make-evaluate-make cycle.
Making also encourages the development of a common design language among children. When students begin building well before they finalize their design (a divergence from professional design), they gain experience in moving between the actual and the possible. They develop norms and vocabulary