Engaging elementary students in active learning through engineering : methods, observations and outcomes
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Engineering as a pedagogical tool for teaching content and driving student intellectual development is often confined to secondary school grades – middle and high school students. The goal of this work is to explore the feasibility of incorporating engineering, in the form of engineering design challenges, into elementary grade levels. The hypothesis is that engineering design challenges can be made to be age appropriate for elementary students, specifically 1st grade students, without sacrificing elements which make them effective pedagogical tools. This hypothesis was tested through the designing of an engineering design challenge for 1st grade students, which was then taught to a group of elementary students, whose responses were analyzed for desired outcomes indicating effectiveness. The design challenge was demonstrated to be engaging, effective, and feasible for the group of elementary students participating in the research. Students were observed to display engineering habits of mind, an understanding of cause and effect, systems thinking, and a basic understanding of science content through participation in the design challenge. Aspects of the design challenge which were not effective or age appropriate are discussed in this work, and recommendations for further modification of the design challenge to better accommodate elementary students is given.
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