Teacher Testimonials

Confidence and engagement

“You can see the students have more comfort with it now, coming up with more ways to solve problems. It’s easier for them, because they’ve been exposed more [by other teachers introducing Novel Engineering in younger grades]. They’re more comfortable because another teacher has done it with them—they’re exposed to problem-solving strategies in previous grades. So they’re willing to take a chance and come up with solutions that might not work. And it seems they can come up with solutions more easily than in previous years.”

 

“I tell parents and teachers that this is very open-ended, whereas a lot of times at school kids are given assignments with a specific rubric they have to follow, so there’s not much room for personal choice. Some kids actually don’t know how to make personal choices—they always want an adult telling them the right way to do something. And in this project there’s no right way. So it’s good for kids to be dealing with open-ended situations and problem-solving.”

Teamwork skills: listening, compromising, working together

“The best thing they’re getting is team-building and our principal is really pushing that. … It took a while, but getting the kids to be able to listen to each other’s suggestions, and being willing to try. It was a great team-building experience. I saw the kids asking questions of each other, like: ‘What would make this better?’ ‘How do we get the water from here to there?’”

“This is a good opportunity for learning how to compromise; I teach those lessons throughout the activities we do.”

“The kids benefit so much—just getting them to think critically and ask themselves questions and work as a team.”

“It’s wonderful how they’re working with other students and having to listen to them, and they’re taking criticism and fixing things, and analyzing more.”

“Some have a hard time working with others and compromising, so it’s teaching them life skills.”

Solving engineering problems

“They’re really enjoying the problem-solving aspect. They’re really developing critical thinking and communication skills.”

“It really helps them understand what engineers do—they look for problems—and which ones can be solved using engineering, so we talk about the science involved.”

Creativity

“The idea that there’s not a right or wrong answer—they can be very focused on that.”

“It is just so much better than other things they’re doing in the classroom; so hands-on and creative, and they can control their own learning.”

Involvement from all students

“They don’t have to be a grade A student—because some of my weaker students came up with some of the best ideas when it wasn’t based on academics, and they didn’t have that stress of ‘Oh I have to do this and that and that.’ They were the most creative!”

“It gets kids involved in the book who might not necessarily be involved.”

“Some of the students surprised me, which was wonderful. Some that I thought might have a harder time with it really shone and demonstrated a whole different side of their learning I hadn’t seen. So it allowed me to see them differently as learners. For example, some students who may struggle day-to-day but are really good working in a group could be a group leader; even though their academic skills might be lower, they could think outside the box and highlight that through the projects.”

An introduction to engineering

“The great thing about the engineering project is that it gives them opportunities to go in all different areas of science, not just, because right now we just do rocks and minerals and plants, and that’s the only two areas of science we go into. We don’t get into blocks and levers and this opens it up to what kids are interested in, and can learn about. So it definitely helps the science.”

Literacy connections

“They’re definitely getting a love of reading. Just saying to them, ‘We’re going to build an engineering project and we’re looking for problems to solve’ seems to give them motivation for reading.”

“Beyond basic understanding of a plot, you delve a bit deeper because they’re trying to solve a problem based on the context of the story. So they get into the plot a bit more, and the characters, too.”

Surprising outcomes

“I was amazed at how their brains worked—they’re only eight or nine years old, but I was really impressed. … One group did this thing about the women having to spend the whole day cooking over a fire cooking and turning food, and they figured a way to get the food to cook evenly. I mean, I just thought that was beyond what an eight or nine year old would think of. The other thing I was impressed with was they were willing to keep trying. Like they’d do the wheels and they weren’t rotating, and they’d think, what can they do to the axles to make it easier for the wheels? Who would have thought an eight or nine year old would come up with that!”