Why is Engineering Important in Early Learning?
It may have crossed your mind that engineering activities sound good, but why bother? You may have a curriculum that you are required to follow or you may feel like you don’t have the time or resources to promote engineering activities. We strongly encourage you to think outside of the box on this one.
We have already discussed a few of the benefits that engineering explorations provide, but don’t take our word for it. States have published early learning standards that contain engineering-related concepts that children are expected to explore.
In addition to early learning standards, experts across the country have identified the skills and approaches to learning that will help children become successful students who will eventually enter the workforce. By promoting engineering with young children, teachers are building a foundation of skills that children will need in the future, whether they become engineers or not.
One place to locate learning standards related to engineering is within the Next Generation Science Standards. These standards guide educators as they implement science education at every level of K-12. Based on this resource, children should develop an understanding of the following engineering concepts:
- Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
- Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.
- Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
- Plan and conduct an investigation to compare the effects of different strengths or different directions of pushes and pulls on the motion of an object.
- Plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials can make sound and that sound can make materials vibrate.
- Use tools and materials to design and build a device that uses light or sound to solve the problem of communicating over a distance.
- Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs.
- Develop a simple model that mimics the function of an animal in dispersing seeds or pollinating plants.
In case you are curious, all of these standards are for students in grades K-2. How is your program preparing children for the rigors of science education that they will experience in just 2 to 3 years?
Additionally, educators from across the country have collaborated on the Framework for 21st Century Learning, which identifies the following critical skills that children should learn, all of which can be learned through the exploration of engineering challenges:
- Creativity and innovation
- Critical thinking
- Problem Solving
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Initiative and self-direction
- Social and cross-cultural skills
- Productivity and accountability
- Leadership and responsibility
Curious about what this looks like in early learning environments? Click here and here to access excellent resources from Battelle for Kids.
For the main article Early Engineering, CLICK HERE
For the article The Engineering Design Process, CLICK HERE
For the article The Engineering Design Process for Children, CLICK HERE
For the article Recommendations for Engineering Activities, CLICK HERE