Science, Engineering, Paideia ... OH MY! Kindergarteners at Moss Street Partnership School kicked off their Engineering in Elementary (EIE) kit on shelters with a Paideia Seminar written and led by Dearing Blankmann. After reading and discussing the book A House in the Woods, by Inga Moore, through an interactive Paideia seminar, students were ready to learn about shelters.
Students fell in love with the main character--a dog named Penny. These five and six-year-olds were genuinely concerned for Penny and took solving her problem into their own engineering hands! Over two weeks, students explored possible materials and shapes that would make a good shelter for our dog Penny, who is too warm in the sunlight. By testing the materials with a flashlight throughout most of the design process, it was a real treat when they went outside on a sunny day to build their shelters.
The process started with asking a question: How can we make Penny not as warm in the sunlight? After asking and imagining what we could do to help Penny, students began to plan with a partner. Students not only learned what materials are waterproof and provide the best shade, but also how to share ideas and listen to a partner and work together towards one goal. Once the planning was complete, students moved into their creating process and built their shelter with various types of paper, tape, and a cardboard base. Students were then challenged to improve their designs by learning from other groups in the class.
As the unit was coming to an end, students would talk about Penny as if she were their own pet at home. They were constantly looking for new materials for shelters and noticing shadows and shade more and more. These kindergarteners' thought process moved from, "It is sunny" to "I am hot so I should build something to keep me cool". What a fun process to teach partner work and build on the fact that all of us can be engineers!