As teachers, we want to help our students find and prepare for rewarding careers. Teaching engineering to kids does exactly that as engineers promise to be in demand for decades to come, in any number of areas, including industry, aerospace, computers and infrastructure.
You may be asking yourself, “Where do I start?” or even feel the creeping shadow of of imposter syndrome, but through technology and exploration you’ll find you aren’t limited by chances to expose students to engineering experiences. Through teaching engineering to kids, our students will learn to think like engineers and be better-prepared for an exciting and rewarding career path.
Engineering Activities for Kids
Children are natural problem-solvers – just watch a toddler figure out how to escape their crib or reach the top shelf of the refrigerator. Kids are naturally curious and have a love of trial and error. Most begin building and designing as soon as they can sit up! We can encourage and stimulate these natural tendencies by involving them in engineering activities early on.
Here are a few STEM activities that your students will love:
Construct Rube Goldberg Machines
These contraptions fascinate children and adults alike. Creating machines to open textbooks or close the classroom door can be fun and challenging. Consider investing in the classic game Mousetrap to demonstrate the concept to young children. You can also let them construct Rube Goldberg-like reactions using dominoes and some help from YouTube.
Virtually design + 3D Print a Set of Sneakers
Using EVERFI’s free online resource Endeavor – STEM Career Exploration, your students can design and manufacture a custom sneaker. Through experimenting with different material options and calibrating printer settings, students will be exposed to the topics and careers that are defining the future of manufacturing – and all from the comfort of their classroom!
Use Building Blocks to Create Famous Structures
You can purchase a flip book filled with pictures of these buildings and challenge your students to recreate the Eiffel Tower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Investing in a more advanced building block set for your classroom is a good place to start – but you can never go wrong with a good old-fashioned Lego set!
Build a Propeller Car
Create a Volcano
This project has been a favorite for decades, and it never grows old for young students. They will enjoy constructing a papier-mâché form and creating the eruption reaction with common ingredients like dish soap, baking soda and vinegar.
Engineering Teaching Methods
We can use certain basic teaching methods to keep students interested while we teach them engineering fundamentals.
It’s easy to catch a student’s attention with a cool project like building a robot; the real challenge comes with teaching them the engineering fundamentals in a way that keeps their interest. While older students may be able to wait for weeks to see results, younger children can lose interest quickly without quick, observable results. Experts recommend choosing initial projects that deliver those quick results – for instance, the LEGO Mindstorm EV3 robotic kit gives easy instructions for less complex robots. One teacher let his students build these easy models to arouse enthusiasm so that they were willing to work on more complicated projects that took more time to complete.
Coding is essential to engineering, but teaching coding can be difficult if you’re not strong in that area yourself. Fortunately, certain websites and products help students grasp these concepts and strengthen our own understanding by exposing us to a variety of projects with varying degrees of difficulty. Scratch is a website that introduces students to coding without overwhelming them. It features step-by-step projects that are fun and informative. In addition, we can teach them the basics of electronics by using products like Little Bits and Snap Circuits – easy-to-use, well-stocked construction kits.
Fortunately, there are many excellent resources that help us teach engineering. When it comes to this educational challenge, we do not have to go it alone.
STEM education is essential for all students. It teaches problem-solving skills and technology basics that are necessary for success in all careers. By tackling these projects, we get to learn along with our students and add fun to each school day.