A few weeks ago a colleague and I had the chance to present at the Out in Space, Down to Earth STEM Educator Conference. This conference was held at the Scobee Education Center at San Antonio College. Our session was titled “Think Like an Engineer” and was designed specifically for educators of Pre-K students. Engineering and early childhood may not seem to go together, but, as our participants learned, they are actually a perfect match. Young children are naturally curious and want to know about the world around them. They like to see how things work – even if that means breaking them apart into pieces.
One activity we presented was called The Big, Bad Wolf Challenge. For this activity, participants used toothpicks and biodegradable packing peanuts to build a structure. We discussed how engineers need to consider several things when building structures. One of these considerations is how the structure will respond to weather. The participants used spray bottles full of water to imitate rain falling on their structures. At first, nothing seemed to happen. But over time, they discovered that the packing peanuts began to dissolve. It looked as though they were melting off the toothpicks. This experience led to a great discussion about the importance of using the appropriate materials when building structures.
We challenged the participants to try this activity with their students or own children at home. Eileen accepted the challenge and provided this activity to her three-year old twin daughters. “They loved it!!!!!! They did it two separate times today. The first time I told them to build something as tall as they could. They worked for about an hour. There was some frustration, but 99% joy. They were focused and tried different methods,” said Eileen. “The second time was when my husband came home from work. They couldn't wait to do the activity with their daddy!”
Thanks Eileen for encouraging your twin girls to Think Like an Engineer! If you want more information about this or other STEM activities, contact me by clicking on the Ask a Specialist link at the top of this page.