“As ice cream sundae process engineers, name one thing you would change to speed up the process.”

And remember, at this young age, there are no wrong answers. Let them brainstorm and associate ideas with engineering.

Motion study

My son’s “Motion Booklet” was part of his school’s second grade science curriculum and had activities such as building paper planes and testing how far they will fly, constructing a foam glider from a template, and even sailing hand-made boats. This science lesson gave the students an awareness of their world in motion.

One page in particular really drew my attention.  The activity on this page had the students running different cars down different materials with different slopes.  Then the activity asked questions on the second and third rounds of car racing, such as “What changed?” and “Why did it change?” and “What do you think caused the change?”

This activity is engineering at its finest!  Add the following words and you have a great elementary engineering project:

“Engineers often conduct experiments such as this one to discover the effect that different materials, slopes, and even the car’s weights have on the speed of the cars. A big part of engineering is finding answers to ‘what will happen if I do X or Y or Z or a combination of the three?’”

I could go on, but I’m stopping there because that is enough for second graders.  Two sentences–that’s all that’s needed to give young elementary students an awareness of engineering.

I encourage you to add sentences like these to your curriculum.  Start small, start somewhere. Engineering doesn’t need to be the “silent E” in your STEM program any longer!

Patty O’Brien Novak is a mom of two elementary students, author of a children’s engineering book, and an engineer. Her web site is http://www.pattyobriennovak.com.