Why to Explore Engineering with Kids

Engineering brings science, maths and even art together to design and construct structures and solve problems! It refers to the practical application of knowledge and design to achieve solutions to human problems and is incredibly diverse! Engineers constantly build on past knowledge and successes to improve and evolve structures, technology, machines and much more – nearly everything we use has been engineered!

At the heart of engineering is problem solving! For example, engineers will:

  1. Ask – Define Problem
  2. Imagine – Brainstorm Ideas & Select the Best
  3. Plan – Draw a Diagram & Collect Materials
  4. Create – Follow Plan and Test
  5. Improve – Discuss Possible Improvements & Repeat

Through this process, Katehie and colleagues (2009) believe children can build the following skills: systems thinking, creativity, optimism, and collaboration, which are essential for living in the 21st century!

1. Systems Thinking

This refers to being able to recognise the connections in the world – i.e. learning that making change to one system or structure can have an influence on another one. Basically, it reinforces the concept of cause and effect but on a greater level and lets children realise actions may have consequences that are not obvious or seen straight away!

2. Creativity

The process of brainstorming ideas and creating a plan in engineering is a great example of creativity! It’s important to remember outside of literacy, music or art etc. that creativity can be explored in other areas – even in the STEM world!

3. Optimism

Engineering, as we said, is a process of improvement and problem solving- when children partake in engineering activities they start to see how many possibilities and opportunities there are in every task or challenge! Through partaking in these activities they build persistence and self-confidence. This in term helps children develop a sense of self-efficacy which has a profound impact on their greater development!

4. Collaboration

Working together, sharing ideas, and seeking out the opinions and perspectives of others are a crucial part of engineering challenges! It’s a great way to foster cooperation and social/communication skills in young children.

so what are some engineering activities for kids?

1.The Foil Boat Engineering Challenge

The challenge is to create a foil boat out of drinking straws and a sheet of foil. Find out what you need here!

2. Block Challenge Flash Cards

Create a pack of challenge cards with different structures to build with a set of blocks e.g. a bridge, ramp, pyramid, tallest building possible! Check them out here and don’t forget we have lots of blocks available for budding engineers here!

3.Marshmallow and Toothpick or Spaghetti Tower

Build the tallest freestanding tower you can in 10 minutes using only marshmallows, toothpicks, 1m string and 1m tape! Find out exactly what to do here!

References

Cheng, J. (2008). Excite kids about engineering. The Technology Teacher, 67(7), 26.

DiFrancesca, D., Lee, C., & McIntyre, E. (2014). Where is the “E” in STEM for young children? engineering design education in an elementary teacher preparation program. Issues in Teacher Education, 23(1), 49.

Latham, D., & Vaughn, J. (2012). Bridges and tunnels : Investigate feats of engineering with 25 projects. Vermont: Nomad Press.

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