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Celebrating the "E" in STEM+: Lower School Engineering Week

By Ruth Thomas

During the week of Feb. 11-15, Lower School students celebrated the “E” (engineering) in STEM+ by engaging in authentic design work related to one of the “grand challenges” for engineers: providing access to clean water. All students began the week by reading and discussing “The Water Princess.” This text served as the inspiration for the student challenges.

The Lower School STEM+ Committee members (Megan Bever, Jessalyn Crawford, Crystal Keefe, Patrick Knox, Cynthia Fordham and Ruth Thomas) collaborated with The Engineering Place faculty at NC State to create developmentally appropriate engineering projects. Throughout the week, primary students (PreK-second grade) designed and built efficient models for transporting clean water from one place to another. Intermediate students (third-fifth grades) planned and created prototypes to filtrate dirty water and make it fit for drinking. Collaborative groups planned, built, tested and rebuilt to create practical innovations. Click here to sample the week.

On Wednesday, Feb. 13, students attended panel discussions led by “parent” engineers. These engineers shared how they changed their world as they exercised the Lead from Here competencies of being visionary, strategic, reflective, adaptive and resourceful. Authentic engineering projects such as banking apps, massive coding storage, protective fire helmets, a variety of piping styles, medical diagnostics, and athletic shoe designs were discussed and demonstrated.

On Thursday, Feb. 14, buddy classes collaborated across grade levels in special Valentine-themed projects. Small groups used the engineering design process to solve a variety of challenges. First- and third-grade “buddy” classes created maximum quantity candy boxes. PreK and second-grade classes designed safe packages for egg drops. Kindergarten and fourth-grade buddies constructed and tested candy heart catapults.

On Friday, at the close of Engineering Week, students shared their designs in a friendly competition, with Middle and Upper School students judging the week’s work. Second grade led the primary classes with a water transporting system that was both fast and cumulative. Kindergarten and first grade also created ingenious working models. Fifth grade designed a filtration system that produced the most clean water for the least amount of money.

Throughout the week, students thought and collaborated as engineers. As Dr. Laura Bottomley, director of Women in Engineering at The Engineering Place, shared with the students during her visit, engineering teaches us that there is no one “right” way to solve a problem. Lower School Ravens spent the week learning to collaborate and create in flexible ways. As a result, these future leaders will change our world to make is a better place.

Check out photos from this awesome week here

Note: This wonderful week took many hours to put together. Grateful appreciation goes to the members of the STEM+ Committee who planned the activities and events. Additional thanks to each Lower School faculty and staff member who helped to make this an outstanding learning experience for every student.

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