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At NMS, “Engineering is Elementary”

Students test their windmill design to see if it can lift weight.

This year, NMS has partnered with the Boston Museum of Science to bring their exciting “Engineering is Elementary” curriculum to the Lower Elementary classrooms. This curriculum pairs perfectly with the Montessori physical and earth science curriculum. It presents children with real-world problems and asks them to apply both their creativity and knowledge of science, technology and math to find a solution (or even better, more than one solution).

One of the core understandings that students take away from this curriculum is that there is no one “right” answer in engineering. Mistakes are celebrated and failures are viewed as opportunities. These opportunities for creative problem solving help children build flexibility and resilience through collaboration, communication and critical thinking.

Each EiE unit uses a specific field of engineering as a unifying theme. Students learn about this field in the context of a storybook about a child who solves a real-world problem using the engineering design process. This is designed to make the field of engineering both relevant and accessible to children. This book is followed up with a series of lessons that lead students through the process of finding their own solutions to an engineering problem. They start by gathering scientific data that will inform their designs and then participate in a collaborative design challenge that requires them to apply what they’ve learned about the engineering design process.

Our students just wrapped up their first EiE unit, connected to our earth science unit about air and wind. It focused on the use of mechanical engineering to create machines that harness the power of the wind and use it to accomplish a task. Students enjoyed hearing the story of two children who created a wind-powered machine that would aerate a pond to provide more oxygen for the fish living in it. They explored different sail designs to determine which shapes and materials best catch the wind. Finally, they designed and tested windmills that harnessed the power of the wind with the goal of lifting the maximum amount of weight. They had an opportunity to improve their designs after testing and then shared what they had discovered with classmates. Watch one design in action below!

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