Second annual Engineering Day at Encinal School provides new design challenges for students

by Parke Treadway on October 24, 2017

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On October 19th, Encinal teachers produced the second annual Engineering Day during which every kindergarten through fifth grade student at the school participated in at least three design challenges.

With funding from the Parent Teacher Organization and a Jeanie Ritchie Innovation Grant from the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation, teachers created, planned, and executed the challenges reflecting concepts from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the science curriculum adopted by the state of California.

Teachers in the Menlo Park City School District have been implementing bridge activities for their students so MPCSD will be ready for on-time full implementation of the new standards. NGSS adds engineering and technology as a fully formed strand of science education, joining the life sciences, earth and space sciences, and sciences to make a robust, four-strand comprehensive science curriculum.

Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science brought many engineering stations for each child to experiment with, and teachers used additional resources from San Jose’s TECH Museum in some of their activities for the day.

New to the Encinal campus this year is the ENspired Lab, a dedicated space for student design thinking projects, a space that 5th grade students explored during Engineering Day.

While introducing engineering concepts to students is the main goal of Engineering Day, other benefits include offering voice and choice to students in their academic studies, opportunities for individual students to shine in different ways, and application of cross-cutting concepts as students have time to think deeply about the challenges they tackle.

Each student presented one of their designs to their class and many students really excelled as they showcased their own creations and problem solving abilities. As children made their way around the campus, they remarked on various concepts that the experiments and challenges taught them: “I noticed that all the bridges overlapped the bottom,” said Luke. “It made them stronger.”

“We noticed that when you put them farther away the shadows looked bigger and when you put it closer it gets smaller,” observed Julianne and Naomi. “We think it’s because if you push it closer it’s not really in the scope and if you push it back, it’s bigger.”

“We tried making cubes, but if we didn’t put a top and bottom then they will collapse, so we connected cubes together with the bottoms and the sides,” said Aaditya and Rowan.

“If you don’t want your tower to fall in the Towers and Cones station, build a stronger support at the bottom so it won’t fall,” commented Christopher.

Second grade teacher Moolani Napolitani summed up the day saying, “All the activities offered the kids opportunities to develop a growth mindset, share their thinking, and reflect on their learning. The kids loved the day from beginning to end.”

Photos by Gina Hart (c)2017

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