Children learn through experiences, and the earlier they are exposed to STEM-based hands-on learning experiences, the better. Engineering design, by its nature, is an inquiry-based pedagogical strategy that promotes learning across disciplines.
Engineering curricula introduces students of all ages to everyday applications of science, mathematics, technology and engineering that match their values and view of the world. This, and many of our other activities are designed to engage students in hands-on STEM experiences in order to improve their understanding of fundamental concepts in a way that capitalizes upon their design, visualization, creativity and teamwork skills and yearnings.
For this activity, the children were given blocks, a toy troll, and toy goats. They were told to construct a bridge using the blocks and the toys. They continued to add blocks until the bridge collapsed. After this, they counted the amount of blocks they needed to keep their bridges up. Many students enjoyed this so much, they repeated the experiment over and over again!
Young children are naturally curious. They wonder what things are called, how they work, and why things happen. The foundations of scientific learning lie in inquiry and exploration — these are the tools of active learning. Fostering young children’s sense of curiosity about the natural world around them can promote a lifelong interest in it. Scientific learning should not be limited to a particular “science time.”
Early childhood teachers should look for opportunities to develop children’s understanding of scientific concepts in all content areas. To do so, children need to observe things first-hand as much as possible. The younger the children, the simpler and more concrete the activities need to be. It is for this reason that whenever our class is learning about something, I try to make it as three-dimensional as possible. It is one thing for them to see a picture of a concept, it is another thing for them to actually experience it. For this activity, your little one participated in an engineering activity! Using toilet paper rolls, cardboard, and goats, they constructed and then tested a bridge. Students worked in teams that focused on the weight and durability of their bridges. Because this week involved us learning about the Billy Goats Gruff, we gradually placed one goat after another on our bridges until they fell. We then counted the goats to see how many would fall and get gobbled up by the troll. Students enjoyed this component, because it was so unpredictable! As a result, your little ones explored the scientific process, and examined the results of cause and effect!