Experiences, School

Project Integrating the Engineering Design Process

Contributed by: Rahel Grebler, Yavneh Academy, Paramus, NJ, https://www.yavnehacademy.org/

Project Integrating the Engineering Design Process

As the first graders in my class at Yavneh Academy studied the biblical story of Noah and the ark, we integrated the introductory lesson of engineering from KinderLab Robotics. The children learned about the building of the ark and all the challenges that Noah encountered while constructing it. The ark’s blueprints were given to him by God and he had to follow the instructions. Similarly, the students were introduced to the engineering process: ask, imagine, plan, create, test, improve and share.

They were exposed to different objects that have been engineered. They compared objects which were created to others which are found in nature. We discussed the process of engineering while observing the objects. For example, we looked at a glue stick, scissors, crayons and a desk. These were all objects that were relatable to the students. The question was asked, “Why were these invented?”.

What was the need to create these items? After much discussion and conversation, the challenge for the students was to build a boat that will be sturdy, three stories high, and strong enough to float for three minutes. Additionally, it needed to accommodate Noah, his family and a few plastic animals. The ark must allow for supplies for the animals and Noah’s family.

Various materials were available for the challenge, including recyclable containers of different sizes, popsicle sticks, colorful duck tape, paper options, pipe cleaners, cotton balls, bottle caps, etc.. The students worked cooperatively in small groups. Teamwork guidance was provided and collaborative work was highlighted. Conversations amongst the students were echoing in the classroom as they planned their groups’ arks.

Following the construction process, the students tested their models in a tub of water. Using a timer for three minutes, the students waited patiently to see if their ark was a successful construction. For those that did not succeed the challenge, they went back to the drawing board to figure out what improvements needed to be made to meet the challenge.

Each group shared their plan in detail, their challenges, tests and outcomes. Some quotes were:
“It was fun to work together because we all had different ideas and then it turns out really nice”
“We put the people on the top floor to be away from the smelly animals on the first floor”
“We made a basket to catch fish from the water”
“We felt like Noah building his ark”
“It tilted a little so we put another pipe to balance it”
“Where will the toxins go?”

What an amazing experience as the first step of our year long journey of incorporating the engineering process into our Judaic Studies first grade curriculum.

Note: The Engineering Design Process is central to the KIBO curriculum, and it applies to lots of different activities. You can purchase KIBO’s Engineering Design Journals and the Engineering Design Process classroom poster from our shop!

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