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Engineering in K–12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects
an integral part of an early childhood program that is designed to address standards.
The learning activities outlined in Building Structures with YoungChildren are consistent with standards recommended by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) inBenchmarks for Science Literacy (1993). For example, according to AAAS, by the end of second grade students should be able to “make something from paper, cardboard, wood, plastic, metal, or existing objects that can actually be used to perform a task.” Making a structure that provides shelter for a toy turtle could make a valid contribution toward the attainment of this standard.
The questioning and debriefing strategies that are recommended throughout the materials are also consistent with developing students’ ability to “Describe and compare things in terms of number, shape, texture, size, weight, color, and motion.” Similarly, the role that sketching plays in the teaching and learning process can help children develop an ability to “Draw pictures that correctly portray at least some features of the thing being described.”
Inversely, targeting the following standards about systems could have added additional ideas and new lines of inquiry that can enrich the dialog between teachers and students.
“Most things are made of parts” (p. 264).
“Something may not work if some of its parts are missing” (p. 264).
“When parts are put together, they can do things that they couldn't do by themselves.”
The materials are well laid out and easy to follow. They ask teachers to address the study of structures from multiple perspectives. Attention is given to configuring the learning environment to encourage exploration, conducting neighborhood tours that involve examining and discussing real structures, using books to inspire and inform designs, incorporating guest speakers, helping students learn from one another, and debriefing students about their experiences. Attention is also given to establishing schedules and routines that support learning, facilitating core experiences, offering suggestions for making connections to families, surveying the children’s work during classroom “walkabouts,” conducting group discussions during “science talks”, using books and pictures to inform designs, and more.
All of the learning activities include the same elements that are