question or comment?
Tell me and I'll forget.
Show me and I'll remember.
Involve me and I'll understand
exciting program for grades PreK-5 introduces teachers and students
to engineering and thinking skills (tools for engineering)
in an interdisciplinary project based
learning environment. The program uses the engineering design
process, as defined in the Massachusetts Science Framework, as a
connector between students’ literature and their mathematics and
science curricula. It infuses the development of thinking strategies
with creative and critical thinking, provocative questions and
meta-cognitive reflection, skills that are part of the engineering
process. This approach is based on the definition, “Engineering
is about designing useful products & processes for society using all
disciplines, but mainly science & mathematics”.
Kids also must learn to think across disciplines, since that's where
most new breakthroughs
are made. It's interdisciplinary combinations—design and technology,
art—"that produce YouTube and Google," says Thomas Friedman, the
best-selling author of
The World Is Flat.
students are to function successfully in a highly technical society,
then they must be
equipped with lifelong learning and thinking skills necessary to
acquire and process
information in an ever-changing world
What we are doing:
The core idea of
our approach is that engineering need not "stand alone" in the
curriculum, but can and should leverage existing curricular elements
-- in particular literature. We envision a curriculum in which
students respond to literature through engineering design projects
by identifying needs that the characters have, by identifying
multiple possible solutions, and by exploring and refining those
solutions through prototyping and revision. For example,
kindergarteners might respond to a common fairy tale by designing a
house for one of the little pigs (or perhaps a means of blowing down
a house for the wolf!); fifth graders might respond to the book
Island of the Blue Dolphins by identifying needs and solutions for
Karana, the marooned main character of the novel.
is to show you how to, in a systematic way, create an
interdisciplinary project learning experiences using the design
process and thinking skills as the connector. Many of you probably
have done projects around literature and other subjects, but we hope
to develop a way that is systematic and provides your student the
ability to participate in the process of finding design challenges
in the stories they are reading. This translates to a
project based learning environment where the students are engaged in
finding design challenges, doing and reporting on them in as part of
a team. We are creating a professional
development (PD) syllabus that we model for you the methodology.
The major elements of the PD are shown below. We hope to
evaluate this concept in a urban, Rural and Suburban school district
and establish a sustainability model that includes on-line
collaboration by teachers and incorporating this PD as a
supplemental curriculum in teacher colleges:
Shown below is a
model for a professional Development program.
Why use Literature?
1. Literacy is an integral part of all
existing school curriculum.
2. Stories have the potential to present
situations that can challenge children’s imagination.
3. Some stories can serve to encourage
students to begin to generate design proposals and connect to science and
4. Literature is an area of the curriculum
that all teachers are familiar with and thus the design process can start
from a position of strength within the classroom.
5. Building on children’s strength.
We believe some of the
• Showing that all subjects are
• Teachers can integrate this in their
existing work and begin to create pockets on interdisciplinary learning.
• Doing a whole project versus learning
about just a small section.
• Its OK to make mistakes, in fact it’s
a way of learning.
• Students who experience
design-oriented activities in all disciplines will be more likely to develop
a deeper understanding of the creative process itself, independent of any
innovation and entrepreneurship in a number of
ways. First, there is an explicit focus on needs finding. Students
must identify with characters in literature, and decide what
opportunities might exist to help those characters. As such, the
program is as heavily focused on the entrepreneurial skill of
opportunity identification and assessment. Second, because the
program is heavily oriented toward the kinds of thinking skills that
the engineering design process requires, it includes substantial
emphasis on the kinds of thinking that lead to innovation. In
students use divergent and convergent thinking processes and
techniques (e.g., brainstorming, criteria-based idea selection) as
they develop their ideas for how to respond to the needs of
characters in literature. Finally, the design of the professional
development workshop is meant to lead to curricular innovation.
While participants will be introduced to various techniques and the
framework, the participants will be responsible for designing their
own projects, and will utilize innovation-oriented design techniques
to do so.