Elementary Students Explore Engineering as Part of Science Curriculum

As part of a grant from the Lynch Foundation to the Archdiocese of Boston, Saint Columbkille elementary students are learning age-appropriate engineering as part of the science curriculum. Engineering kits were created by the Museum of Science through the Engineering in Education (EiE) program. The program also offers workshops and professional development for teachers to learn about the kits and how to best engage young learners in the content.

Anna Birnberg, grade 1-5 science teacher, has been teaching the curriculum for the past few years. On Monday, September 30, she participated in a teacher showcase to share a presentation on the implementation of the program at Saint Columbkille. The program aims to expand its reach to additional schools in Boston and the Archdiocese.

Each grade level in elementary school will participate in two engineering units during the school year as part of the science curriculum. The unit begins with the students reading a story to ground them in a problem set in another country. For example, grade 1 will learn about a girl in the Dominican Republic who receives a plant from Hawaii and must make her own pollinator in order for the plant to produce berries. Grade 2 will learn about chemical engineering by making a modeling compound (similar to Play-Doh) and bioengineering through frog skins and membranes.

Grade 3 will study environmental engineering through a story about an oil spill in Alaska and electrical engineering with magnetic levitation (maglev) trains in Japan. Grade 4 will learn about solar power (environmental engineering) and how to construct a building on a changing landscape (civil engineering). Grade 5 will design a filter for a community in India without access to clean water and make parachutes as part of a space unit.

“The curriculum gives students a chance to actually learn what an engineer does by solving a problem that they understand through the story,” says Ms. Birnberg. “It shows our students that they can have an impact on their communities and their environment. Engineering challenges them in a different way and gets them thinking outside the box.”