People are tool users. Building contraptions out of junk gives us the opportunity to use tools. Engineering Events encourage us to make contraptions move. And cheer for them. And talk about them. Something exciting to say. Interesting conversations. Real talk rather than small talk. We want our children to grow into interesting adults who enjoy many aspects of their future mechanical world. Classrooms organized to grab their attention and enthusiasm promote the development of this type of person. These essays are about promoting interesting engagement and enthusiasm for learning in children.
About the Author - Meredith Olson Ph.D. Dr. Meredith Olson, known affectionately as Doc "O" to her students, has taught elementary, middle school and high school math and science in Seattle for more than 50 years. Her primary goal is in improvement of pre-college engineering education. By going to lab to work on contraptions every day, her students come to understand properties of the mechanical world. "It has been a long and interesting trip. Studying some metallurgy in grad school. Evening classes. After a full day of high school teaching. Consulting for JPL as the Mars Pathfinder Educator. Weekends. Working in the summer with UNESCO in Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Uganda. Teaching dozens of weekend and week-long summer teacher workshops in South Carolina and Montana. Being a consultant and curriculum designer for Health and Physiology education in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska. Being a summer adjunct University instructor for more than 20 years in Seattle, Idaho and Montana. Teaching teachers. Teaching students every day, every year for 57 years. Observing how learning happens. Becoming aware when real learning isn't happening. When it is just "show." When it is just teacher-pleasing to get a grade. To get a credit. To get a university degree." See Dr. Olson's open letter outlining her philosophy of lesson design, available on the JPL website - Exploring Preface pp 11-13 http: //mars.jpl.nasa.gov/education/modules/GS/GS07-19_preface.pdf Dr. Olson believes that children must construct their own understanding from active design and assemblage of contraptions. By testing, failing, remodeling, and trying again, we come to see the structure when we look. By carefully examining materials we have, we may perceive how to use them in new and unexpected ways. Children begin to understand the engineering process. Besides, it is fun!