The Power of Girls’ Ideas: National Engineering Week

This week was National Engineers Week, so we looked at the question of how we can use technology to inspire girls around STEM. Women are grossly under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, so we want to help our girls develop an interest in these fields. We hope to ignite a passion in them so they become doctors, architects, scientists and astronomers. We have an opportunity to start this when they are young so they grow up believing that they can and that they have the ability to do so.

We aren’t trying to leave the boys out, but these are male-dominated fields. We want to continue to encourage our boys of color to pursue these fields as well. STEM will open doors of opportunity for all our students. It will help them get into college, earn academic scholarships to pay for college, pursue a career and have a positive impact on the world.

Harvard sponsored an discussion with women who are at the top in STEM fields about the importance of giving girls experience with STEM from a young age. You can hear the presentation and discussions at http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/15/02/space-their-own-girls-women-and-stem

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Our girls designing and drawing the blueprints for their houses and treehouses. Go girls!

We have been reading books about and building models of tree houses. We talked about all the different jobs that have to happen for a house to be built. We read a book by Gail Gibbons called How to Build a House and looked at the engineering process of building a house. We watched a video called How a House is Made that gives a step by step process of how a house is built and talks about the different professionals who are needed (electricians, plumbers, contractors, surveyors, brick masons, architects, engineers, etc). Initally, our students had to come up with and write about a house or a treehouse they wanted to build. Secondly they had to draw a blueprint or a plan for what they wanted to build. We have talked about blueprints before (because builders have to read blueprints to know how big to make things), but this was their first make making their own blueprints. Thirdly students had to build their houses or tree houses based on what they drew in their blueprint. We wanted them to understand that builders have to follow blueprints so they build what the architect designed. We went around and asked kids to show us where their designs were in their blueprint. (Can you show me in your blueprint where you put this door?) They had a lot of “Ah-Ha!” moments about the importance of builders having to “read” a blueprint to check their work. The kids have been looking at non-standard measurement as a part of the TERC Investigations math curriculum (students have been using popsicle sticks, cubes and pennies to measure objects around the classroom). This enables them to make connections between math and real life experiences.

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Reading a blueprint to build a s’more with our K0/K1 book buddies

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Building a house based on the blueprint

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Looking at other student’s houses and treehouses during a Gallery Walk. Students gave each other compliments and feedback about their structures.

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We talked about stories (how many levels) they wanted to make their structures. Quintin decided to build his tree house two stories high.

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Tyree had to persevere and try many times to get his house to stand up. He never gave up until he got it!

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Amarilis was so excited when she was able to build a stable house!

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Our future doctors, engineers, architects, and mathematicians!

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Drawing our blueprints

Following these steps continues to develop their story sequencing and writing skills. The engineering process is connected to both reading (story sequencing) and writing (beginning, next, and the end). When kids are writing we use a graphic organizer to help them organize their ideas visually. It has beginning, middle, next, and end. It is similar to the engineering graphic organizer they used to design their houses, which had them create a plan, enact their plan and then test it out. We have also continued to build houses that the Big Bad Wolf, the Big Bad Boar, and the “Big Bad Ms. Alicia” can’t blow down. We have continued using a variety of materials including blocks, cups, wooden Kapla blocks, cardboard, plastic lids, and bubble wrap. This week was National Engineers Week, so we looked at the question of how we can use technology to inspire girls around STEM. Women are grossly under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, so we want to help our girls develop an interest in these fields. We hope to ignite a passion in them so they become the doctors, architects, scientists and astronomers of tomorrow. We have an opportunity to start this when they are young so they grow up believing that they can and that they have the ability to do so. We aren’t trying to leave the boys out, but these are male-dominated fields. We want to continue to encourage our boys of color to pursue these fields as well. STEM will open doors of opportunity for all our students. It will help them get into college, earn academic scholarships to pay for college, pursue a career and have a positive impact on the world. Harvard sponsored an discussion with women who are at the top in STEM fields about the importance of giving girls experience with STEM from a young age. You can hear the presentation and discussions at http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/15/02/space-their-own-girls-women-and-stem

Dan Cheek from the North Bennett school came to talk to us last week. He talked to the students about his school and explained that he builds cabinets and other things. He talked about the tools carpenters use. The kids told him how we have been looking at pictures of tree houses around the world. He said that he is going to bring in wood from different African countries so they students can see what it looks like.

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