Teaching Engineering in the Early Grades

Many Schools Teach Engineering in Early Grades – NYTimes.com.

I love this article because I think it is exactly what kids need more of. Thinking outside the box, taking risks, looking at multiple perspectives, working cooperatively, designing, innovating, and many other skills are being developed here. In many ways, that is what science is about, but it’s also what problem solving is all about. And it’s not just in science, it’s in any field.

Getting outside one’s comfort zone isn’t really easy, but in order to keep improving, one has to ‘engineer’ and keep redesigning with the goal of improvement. That needs to happen in teaching too. If something isn’t going well, we need to reflect and try something different.

According to Tony Wagner in his book The Global Achievement Gap, he states that even the so called ‘good’ schools train students to get the right answer on a test rather than allow them to explore and discover how the world works. Chemistry classes that are run like a cooking show on TV where students simply follow a recipe, and physics classes, where students memorize formulas and solve for missing variables are all too common. In the end, they do well on the AP exams, but don’t have a clue about how the world works. Here’s what Wagner says are the 7 essential skills.

Kindergarteners’ worlds are full of wonder. How great that schools are allowing them to explore and discover. Yes, they need to learn how to spell too, but there should be a balance. Unfortunately, in our hurried age, where parents compete to get their kids into the best schools by giving four year old test preparation classes, and standardized test scores determine funding or teacher pay, the balance tends to shift to the items on the test.

I feel my school does a great job balancing these forces. Finding this balance, however, is not easy.

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