Elementary Engineering

The Bolt spoke with Concordia elementary school STEM teacher Mr. Caldwell about how elementary students are learning hands-on design thinking. 

How do you teach kindergarteners to be engineers?

I start out by reading a children's story that they can relate to that involves some aspect of engineering in the story. Then I teach a mini lesson on that topic and they have to design and build something related to it. 

For instance this week they read “Three Billy Goats Gruff “and then we built bridges for the billy goats to walk across

In every class starting from preschool we use the Design Cycle: 
“Empathize; Design; Build; Test; Iterate; Reflect; Think.” 

The aim is to learn how we can make something to make the world better.

a pre school works on STEM project
a pre school works on STEM project
a pre school works on STEM project

How do you build on what kids learn in early primary for upper elementary grades success?

We still use the same engineering design cycle but we go further in depth. In preschool to 2nd grade, students do more hands-on building with different manipulatives, and then when they get to 3rd through 5th grades they use their Chromebooks more for computer-aided design programs to help them build. 

a pre school works on STEM project
a pre school works on STEM project

Tell us about The Week of Code

The week of code is a great opportunity for preschool to 5th graders to practice learning code, coding and celebrating coding projects that they have completed throughout the year.

We also have older students that partner with younger grades and they each teach each other the younger grades will teach the older students what they learned in coding and then vice versa. 

What are students doing in the Makerspace?

The Makerspace is an ever-evolving space with all sorts of different supplies for students to use to complete projects. They love building things with their hands, using hot glue guns for older grades or just tape for younger grades. The Makerspace also includes robotics and coding for their Chromebooks. 

We have all these resources and they are seeing things as not just trash. Instead they train their minds to see things as resources, and create using different materials. 

a pre school works on STEM project
a pre school works on STEM project

What opportunities do Concordia elementary students have for STEM ASAs?

Every quarter I do a Makerspace ASA, called “Makerspace Mania,” where students get to build on the skills that they've learned in STEM class and design their own projects that they're passionate about. 

A lot of students really enjoyed using the hot glue gun to build things out of cardboard, making paper rockets to shoot off outside, and using the robots for coding. 

We have a 3D printer to add CAD 3D printing. We are also looking at doing an aquaponics system where they use the fish to grow strawberries.

We focus on sustainability, teaching the kids how we can save electricity, and how we can help the environment - that will be a push this year. 

Learn more about Concordia’s elementary STEM program.