DYF Institute III: Engineering is Elementary – Thursday

Posted in Dyf at 10:40 pm by Beth

Outline for the Day

  • Review yesterday and address feedback
  • Time to prepare for evening presentations
  • Marshmallow Challenge
  • Designing Bridges
  • Presenting to Engineers and Children
  • Minute Paper

Review yesterday and review feedback

We discussed the feedback from the day before.  We spent some time addressing the question:

  • How do we set aside other “have tos” so we can teach engineering/more science in general?

The first answer folks provided was to teach integrated curriculum.

However, folks agreed that they did not need to have new integrated curriculum taught to them.  Participants said that they already knew or had good curriculum. They felt the best use of their time would be to use professional development time  working with other teachers across grade levels at their school to examine existing curriculum.   Participants felt that the expertise exists at each school to identify holes, dovetail existing curriculum, remove duplicated curriculum, and expand and integrate when necessary.

However, one participant, who is the only person teaching her grade, at her school, said it was important to be able to visit other teachers at other sites to learn more about pedagogy as well as curriculum.  Another participant agreed with the importance of watching someone implement new curriculum.  Another participant mentioned that teachers could be videotaped, and those tapes available to others for learning about pedagogical approaches to presenting new curriculum.   However, it takes time to develop safe relationships amongst teachers to share teaching experiences, particularly classroom observation.

One idea was to have a multi-year project where the first part of the project focused more on integrating curriculum at each school, so the focus would be “local”.  Then, more ideas could be shared across schools on what types of integration seem to be working.

Participants discussed Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).  Participants felt they worked well when teachers could self identify weaknesses (based on data), discuss approaches and then design an intervention to address those weaknesses.  However, PLCs were seen as less productive when PLC time was used to listen to hired consultants to talk about how to pass the test – “drive by professional development”.

Participants said that as long as there is one measure (STAR test) then it will be hard to have people change.  There need to be multiple measures.

Participants discussed a project called THRIVE Teacher Incentive Fund Grant.  This discussion brought out how they thought funds should be distributed.   Participants suggested that funds be awarded to specific schools and not superintendents.  If funds were to be awarded based on merit, then funds should go to the school fund and not to specific faculty.  The funds would then go back to the students.

Inspiration for the Day

We watched a video from Engineer Your Life is site devoted to communicating to girls about engineering career options.  We watched a video about Daniele, an Environmental Engineer.

Time to prepare for evening presentations

Participants spent the rest of the morning preparing their presentations.

Marshmallow Challenge

Some participants were ready at 1pm to work on new material, while others were not.  So, those four participants worked on the Marshmallow Challenge.

Designing Bridges

A little later than expected, after just about all presentations were prepared, we went to SD 23 and learned more about engineering statics.  We viewed Lonny’s presentation from two years ago and learned about statics, tension and compression. 

We discussed the concept of science misconceptions.   Some sources of misconceptions are below.

Ken pointed out to be sure to not point out misconceptions to students, as that they often only remember the misconception!

Participants were provided handouts from Building Big.  Beth showed some of her favorite activities

We watched the video of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge failing .

Participants built gumdrop structures exploring the difference between triangles and squares.  At the end we had an impromptu design competition.    Others have a more careful approach to presenting a design challenge.  Students should be sure to know how their designs will be tested.

Presenting to Engineers and Children

After taking a break, participants returned to present their modules to visiting engineers, children and each other.

Minute Paper

Most Important thing learned

  • The activity we prepared for the engineers and the students was great.  It was great ot get all-age level perspectives.
  • The feedback and interactions were helpful to see how the activity would run, what I might add and what I would tweak.
  • It takes many trys to make something that seems simple – work properly.  A design taht seems to work – won’t necessarily.
  • How strong triangles are compared to other shapes when constructing bridges.
  • How to adapt an activity geared for 3-6 graders to be appropriate for 1-2 graders.
  • Given access to great curriculum can be a valuable spring board to other relevant grade appropriate curriculum/activities.
  • Persistence!
  • Not all activities in each module are going to be easy for implementation.  Consistence of materials quality was the issue.
  • Even kits from what seems like a reliable institution do not have all the bugs worked out.  Even with that said, there are some really cool simple and elegant demonstration activities that will be fun to do with students.
  • Triangles
  • Setting up for evening exploration and seeing all the projects with children and adults having fun.

Remaining Questions

  • How will I have enough time to do all of these “fun” and educational engineering lessons next year”
  • Where is the support for teachers to know how to succesfully create the design challenge module?  Teachers usually do not have time to experiment until the prototype works.
  • How do we make sure that great classes like this continue?  I always fee renewed, jazzed and excited when I leave these classes.
  • What IS the name of that startup company that is 60 cents/share?
  • What is the likelyhood of these activities becoming kits like the RCEA ones?
  • What is the availability during the school year to either have engineering students come to our classes to play or tour campus.


  • I really enjoyed having the kids and the engineers “play” and give us feedback.  Thanks!
  • There was too much down time for such a long day.
  • Worthwhile endeavors today! All the activities were fun and interesting!  Conversations and discussion – great as usual…. Like the comment “going to the dark side” to redirect.
  • Another fun dynamic day!  I enjoyed the bridge activities, the chance to have conversations with colleagues (including higher ed.) and the freedom to pursue a satisfactory outcome with our chosen module.  Gracias!
  • Hands-on X 3.
  • What a great week!  I am more tired than I thought I would be, but what stuff!

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