When I taught first grade reading, I often stressed how the vowel in a word is like the peanut butter in a sandwich, it holds that word together and is important to know in order to sound out that word. In the same way, understanding the concept of engineering is vital to understanding what STEM means. Pamela Truesdell states, in her article Engineering and Its Role in STEM, "The best and most engaging way to achieve this unity is through engineering projects that ask students to design solutions for real-world problems."
REASON #1: Most children in early elementary have a concept of math, science and technology, but are probably quite in the fog, as most of us are, about what an engineer is and does. So, having a basic understanding of engineering will help them better understand why they are doing STEM. Solving problems is the main goal of an engineer.
DEFINTION OF ENGINEERING FROM AMERICAN SOCIETY OF ENGINEERING: Engineers solve problems using science and math, harnessing the forces and materials in nature. They draw on their creative powers to come up with quicker, better, and less expensive ways to do the things that need to be done. And they find ways to make dreams a reality.
REASON #2: To undo any preconceived ideas of what an engineer is and does. When we think of an engineer, we may think of a male in a hard hat or looking at blueprints. On the contrary, just like in the field of medicine, there are wide varieties of career options that include both males and females. Fields can range from solving problems with climate change, farming, medical equipment, improving laundry soap, to creating a safer football helmet. The options are endless! One great resource for ideas is Science Buddies careers list. (http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-engineering-careers).
REASON#3: Children will be more engaged, listen better, and learn more if you connect it to their passion or something they are interested in. I knew in first grade that I wanted to be a first grade teacher. Now, this may not always be true for everyone, but if a child is interested in rocks, who knows, many mineralogists jobs are posted as engineering positions.
REASON #4: An essential part of engineering is curiosity, creativity, and collaboration. Children, boys and girls alike, need to know that this includes children who think outside of the box, which would include artistic types, or girls who may be better at collaboration.
REASON #5: Finally, we need engineers. Many of the future jobs will involve solving problems such as climate change, agriculture, medical technology, population growth and more!
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