The Engineering Design Process--it really is like the scientific method! The five simple steps walk us from a question to a solution, just like the scientific method. The words along the way are a little different though, so let's take a moment to go over those before we go any further...
Part 1: Asking Questions
Every engineering challenge begins with a question--and guess what? Children are natural questioners! That means you can create engineering challenges out of just about any situation during the day.
As a parent, there's a few things you want to keep in mind while formulating engineering questions. First of all, you want to make sure that the question can't be answered with one word. Complex questions encourage deeper thinking right from the start!
Imagine the different responses you might get from the following questions:
While one question could be answered with some simple research, the other requires exploration and imagination. It encourages children to think of the answer as a process, rather than an abstract concept.
This phase of the Engineering Design Process is often referred to as "defining the problem." A crucial aspect of the problem that needs to be defined is the scope; this means addressing the needs, rules, and limitations of the problem (the "constraints").
In the case of our solar s'mores above, the constraints outlined in the question are:
Specificity is important when defining an engineering problem, so an additional constraint might address what makes the s'mores considered "cooked" vs "not cooked".
Now, parents, you're faced with a decision: do you (a) plan out all of the constraints prior to beginning the challenge, or (b) make your child a part of the constraint-brainstorming process?
In many ways, the answer to that question is dependent upon the circumstances and focus of the problem. For example, if you are planning an engineering challenge to address a specific concept, then prior planning would be helpful to keep the focus of the challenge on track. If the learning moment is more spontaneous though, you and your child will likely brainstorm constraints on-the-fly and based on what's nearby.
Remember earlier when I said that really obvious thing, ya know, about kids being natural questioners? Well, soooo many of these questions can lead to amazing engineering explorations with the right prompting from you. Encourage your children to ask how something works or how they can accomplish something.
Struggling to get strong, probing questions from your little ones? Don't worry! You can build this skill with practice. Consider the following moments...
On an average day, your response might sound like...
What if you transformed those exclamations into questions?
By posing these complex, thought-provoking questions in every day circumstances, you build your child's ability to see the engineering challenges present in their lives.
Of course, once you have a question, it's time to start looking for answers! I'll see you next time with innovative and creative brainstorming techniques to get your little ones thinking!
Solar- Powered Engineering Challenges
The National Academy of Engineering has posed 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century. One of these challenges is to "make solar energy more economical."
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are a brand-spanking new set of standards that address the skills and knowledge professional-scientists and citizen-scientists will need in the coming years.
So how did the writers of the standards decide what skills would be most important?
A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas
An internationally-renowned, interdisciplinary committee of 18 scientists, science educators, and science education standards and policy experts studied current science research and science learning research in order to identify all of the science that K-12 students should know.
If you'd prefer a significantly shorter (and, dare I say, significantly more entertaining as well) explanation, then please read on.
Three Dimensional Learning
The first step of building a STEM lesson plan is deciding the broad topic of your study by picking one of the four domains to focus on.
2. Crosscutting Concepts
The second piece of our three-dimensional puzzle provides the bridges that link all of the domains together.
These are the ideas and practices that cut across the science disciplines.
When planning a STEM lesson, crosscutting concepts help narrow down your topic.
3. Scientific and Engineering Practices
These refer to the major practices that scientists employ as they investigate
and build models and theories about the world, as well as a key set of engineering
practices that engineers use as they design and build systems.
When you're building a STEM lesson plans, you can use the NGSS Scientific and Engineering Practices to determine how you will study a topic.
How to use the cootie catcher...
As you and your child play the cootie catcher game, use the worksheet to track your answers. Now you'll notice beneath the four Disciplinary Core Ideas there are more specific components. You can use these to narrow down your lesson's focus!
Once you have all three dimensions picked, work together to formulate an essential question.
Basically, an essential question ties together the dimensions and guides your investigation.
Once you have your essential question, you're ready to start doing some science (or engineering, if that's what you're into)!
You can use the Notes section to jot down--well, notes. Did anything in particular spark your child's interest? Use this to focus in on your lesson topic even more!
Your turn to teach me something...
How do you organize your homeschool year? Do you use a pre-defined set of standards? Or do you take learning opportunities as they appear?
Comment below and let me know!
I promised you STEM-tastic stories about women in science and, today, I plan to deliver.
With how much Ellen Swallow Richards contributed to the advancement of women in science, it is only fitting that she kicks off our Wednesday feature.
A Legend of Firsts
Ellen Swallow Richards holds the titles of first...
Transforming Sanitation Science
She had already transformed global water standards, but Ellen felt the need to do more. She needed to go to the root of the problem and use science to solve the problems of daily life.
The "Science of Right Living"
When you think of home economics, what comes to mind? Cooking, cleaning, deciding which deal is the best in the grocery store? What about science? After all, that is what the discipline is founded on.
Perhaps it is because Ellen Swallow Richards did such a phenomenal job infusing household tasks with science, that we often dismiss home economics as a less serious discipline.
A Lasting Legacy
Throughout her life, Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards wrote over a dozen books with titles such as The Chemistry of Cooking and Cleaning, Food Materials and Their Adulteration, and Air, Water, and Food From a Sanitary Standpoint.
In 1993, she was welcomed into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Before you go...
Man! I gave you a lot of information yesterday and not a whole lot of context. Not cool.
Let me take a moment to explain some stuff.
Think of it as syllabus day.
So what can you, my beloved students, expect from me?
Each week I am going to do my best to bring you the best resources on relevant science concepts.
On Mondays, we will get a glimpse at the new topic, along with some great activities to try throughout the week.
Ten Hundred Word Tuesdays--like today--will attempt to explain the topic more in depth, but with a fun twist. Read more below!
On Wednesdays, we wear pink. *Ahem* But really, Wednesdays we will learn about the lives of
STEM-tastic women that blazed trails through the world of science.
Three-Dimensional Thursdays will put the ed in STEMed Academy. Each week we will learn about different teaching techniques, tips, and tools.
Finally, on Featured Fridays, I'll share STEM movies, videos, books, and all other forms of pop culture media related to the weekly topic.
What am I expecting from you?
Every teacher loves students that actively participate.
Perhaps you've had your own share of experiences feeling like you're talking to a wall.
Don't make me talk to a wall.
Got an idea? Share it with the class!
Got a question? Ask away!
You can even jump over to my contact page and put in your request for lesson topics!
Just like every classroom is different, every homeschool is different. I am looking forward to learning about yours!
Phew! That's all the logistics! Not too bad, right?
With all of that said, let's move on to the meat of today's lesson...
Science in Ten Hundred Words...
Not only could we make science a little less science-y and a little more simple--but we also usually end up with hilarious results.
The American Geophysical Union shares some examples on their blog!
Weather and Climate are not the same
I mentioned yesterday that the Earth Day Network is launching a global Environmental and Climate Literacy campaign. Naturally, this week we will be exploring ways for you to teach your children about climate science and environmental issues.
One way is to take big concepts and break them down into simple explanations.
For example, weather and climate are two very different things, but a lot of people mix them up. Have you ever heard someone say that they don't believe in "global warming" because of a cold day during the summer?
Can you see where this is going?
Yep. You guessed it.
The sky's mood right now isn't always the same as the sky's normal mood.
Every now and then, water falls from the sky as rain.
The sky turns grey instead of blue. The sun hides behind cold drops of water all stuck together. The air fills with these drops, sticking to the skin of everyone outside.
The ground turns wet when the summer shower finally starts. The sky shakes and groans loudly.
And then its quiet. The air is calm. The water in the sky slowly disappears. The sun appears.
The sky can be pretty angry! In fact, it's mood changes all of the time.
Sometimes it feels like it's always different. Sometimes it feel likes it's always the same. But, if you tracked all of the sky's moods for a long time, eventually you would have a pretty good idea of the normal mood for one area of land.
Share your own Ten Hundred Word Science below!
So there it is. The differences between weather and climate using only the ten hundred most common English words.
Think you could do a better job?
Try it for yourself here: The Up-Goer Five Text Editor