Engineering is Elementary Workshop

Engineering is Elementary Workshop

Engineering is Elementary Workshop

Scientists investigate that which already is;
Engineers create that which never has been.
-Albert Einstein

The Nantucket Land Council has offered educational grants to island teachers and students in grades K – 12 for 23 years with the goal of supporting hands-on learning and experiential education, typically through project related activities that enhance scientific understanding. “This year the program was renamed the Karen K. Borchert Educational Grants to honor the late veteran NES Kindergarten teacher, NLC board member and former president Karen Borchert and her lifelong passion for education and the environment,” announced NLC Resource Ecologist and the grant program’s administrator Emily Molden.

On this Saturday, March 19th island elementary school teachers are invited to participate in a free day-long professional development workshop with Engineering is Elementary, funded in full by an NLC KKB grant and spearheaded by the Nantucket Lighthouse School. All Nantucket Lighthouse School teachers will be in attendance.

Nantucket Lighthouse School Head of School Emily Miller is excited for the school to host the workshop. “This hands-on, inquiry-based approach to STEM education is right in keeping with the project-based and integrated curriculum of Nantucket Lighthouse School. We are always grateful for opportunities to collaborate with fellow organizations like the NLC and to collaborate with other island teachers.”

The mission of EiE, developed by and based at the Boston Museum of Science, is to support children with curricula and professional development that develop engineering literacy. Each curriculum unit is designed to align with standards and curricula of the Common Core and MA Curriculum Frameworks, currently followed by the Nantucket public schools, not only in the traditional areas of science, technology, math and language arts but also in 21st century skills, such as critical and creative thinking, teamwork, collaboration, and interpersonal skills. Age appropriate engineering challenges for students K-5 are organized in the areas of Life, Earth and Space, and Physical sciences and the EiE website provides an ongoing teacher resource for classroom implementation, standard and curricula alignment guides, and reference materials. EiE units present real world problems needing solving, whether it is designing water filters, bridges, knee braces, or model membranes which children are challenged to solve with the common materials supplied.

Co-Founder and educator Lizbet Carroll Fuller, now serving in a part-time advisory role for Lighthouse, learned of EiE while investigating initiatives in STEM education and saw it as an opportunity to bring inspiring and relevant professional development to busy island teachers who are now charged with implementing STEM in their classrooms. “I am grateful that NLC is so supportive of enhancing science education for children by means of educating teachers. EiE is representative of the type of learning that is most meaningful to young learners and gives teachers a concrete direction in a new, rapidly developing and critical area of study,” Fuller said. Giving a classroom full of children the time, freedom, information and tools they require to actively engage in the scientific process in a meaningful way is challenging to begin with, let alone when there is so much pressure to ‘cover’ what has become an overwhelming amount of material in any given year with standardized tests looming.”

Teachers will learn how to implement the EiE process and approach through hands-on experience, engaging in the engineering process themselves, designing their own solutions in an EiE hands-on unit.By working through a sample engineering unit, teachers will leave the workshop with all they need to know to dive into EiE units related to the curricula of their specific age groups. Thanks to the NLC grant, teachers will have access to a complete set of the curriculum units in order to bring EiE to their students. “If we are to truly ‘teach’ science, we need to give children ample opportunity to do science versus simply learning about it,” commented Fuller, “Today we need imaginative thinkers- people who tackle real problems, imagine new solutions by tapping into their ingenuity, work effectively with others, and invent real solutions using the materials we have at hand. This is life- figuring out how you are going to solve an actual problem based on what you know and the resources around you.”

“We are extremely excited about the EiE Workshop,” Molden stated. “It is such a productive way to extend our resources, not just to one or a handful of teachers and students, but to all of the science teachers and science students across the island. Karen would have loved this.”