In the winter term, kindergarten and Grade 1 students worked on a unit project based on a big book we read in class called The House That Tony Lives In by Anthony Lorenz. Students learned about the physics of inclined planes through Tony’s wheelchair ramp that he uses to get inside his house. Then, they were given a challenge to create a house fit for Tony to live in using wooden blocks.
The projects that students created were informed by the Engineering Design Process, a step-by-step process that engineers, designers, scientists, and other professionals use in the real world to solve problems and come up with solutions. There are different versions of the Engineering Design Process. The version that I used with students was developed by the Engineering Is Elementary Project at the Museum of Science, Boston. The steps are: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve.
ASK: What is the problem? How have others approached it? What things are limiting your results?
IMAGINE: What are some solutions? Brainstorm ideas. Choose the best one.
PLAN: Draw a diagram or blueprint. Make lists of materials you will need to make your solution.
CREATE: Follow your plan and create something. Test it out!
IMPROVE: What works? What doesn’t? What could work better? Test your design out, then change it if it doesn’t work to make it better.
One key fact about the Engineering Design Process is that it is iterative. This means that it can be repeated over and over again until the problem is solved. The kindergarten and Grade 1 students learned that it is okay to make mistakes and to make many mistakes if with each mistake, a different lesson is learned and improvements are made along the way. For each step in the process, I used visual magnets to illustrate this process with students, and each grade level was assessed differently based on assessment goals posted on the wall.
Here are the results! Check out a few of the houses that students built for Tony, as well as what students had to say in their reflections of their projects (the projects and statements are in no particular order):