Early Childhood Development

STEAM: Engineering Spotlight

Early Childhood Development | April 20, 2017

In a previous article, we introduced the topic of STEAM activities (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) and how The Gardner School specifically incorporates technology into the daily learning environment for our students. This month, we shift our focus to the topic of engineering.

Engineering is important for many necessary tasks each day—just consider the complexity of how machines work, how bridges are built, or how buildings are constructed, to name a few. Engineering practices involve mathematics, science, technology, and art. As students begin to adopt and apply engineering skills, they receive hands-on experience at learning how to solve problems, analyze options, and make decisions.

How Does The Gardner School Incorporate Engineering into Learning?

Classrooms are equipped with materials like Legos, foam, wooden blocks, popsicle sticks, and more to help students construct objects and buildings. Teachers at The Gardner School incorporate engineering activities into the classroom environment every day.

Rachel McCormick, Executive Director at The Gardner School of Brentwood says, “We offer students books about construction in the block/art center to inspire their work. Some good resources include ‘The Ultimate Construction Site Book,’ ‘600 Black Spots,’ ‘Look at that Building!,’ and ‘The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale’.”  Rachel also notes the use nonfiction pictures of world landmarks, such as The Great Wall of China, the Statue of Liberty, and the Eiffel Tower to inspire student engineering creations. Additionally, students have access to famous 3D artwork and blueprint or graph paper to use in exercising their engineering skills.

Rachel McCormick added, “We also love to take pictures of the students with their work. This enables the children to have pictures of their structures, so they can re-create them, name them, or even make a classroom book of their 3D creations.”

How Can You Incorporate Engineering and STEAM Activities at Home?

STEAM activities don’t have to end when your child goes home for the day. In fact, some of the best learning opportunities can happen at home. Take a look around the house or through your child’s toys to find some great engineering materials to work with. You might have obvious resources to use, such as building blocks or Legos, but you can also get creative with household items like empty cardboard boxes, milk cartons or jugs, paper towel rolls, and paper cups or bowls. Encourage your child to plan and construct something, and then have a talk about his or her creation. Ask simple questions like, “What did you build?,” “What is the purpose of your object?,” and “How did come up with your design?”

As always, we encourage families to explore STEAM learning opportunities together. So, whether you’re constructing a bridge with paper cups, making a windmill from cardboard, or building a castle with Legos, don’t miss the opportunity to make it a family project! For more STEAM activities and ideas, we encourage you to visit our STEAM Education board on Pinterest.