Design Engineering in Lower School Science
In the Lower School science classes, students learn the design engineering process involved in researching, identifying, designing, making and testing solutions to student-identified local questions and to simulations of real-world problems.
Based on learning style and developmental differences, this curricular approach is understandably completed in age-appropriate and authentic ways in order to bring relevance, awareness and meaning to classroom learning.
In pre-kindergarten, for example, this approach includes studying the classroom salt water touch tank organisms and then determining how to most appropriately care for their needs. From there, students support their teacher in writing a shared picture story-book for classmates and the rest of the Lower School to help foster focused and respectful touch tank use.
At the kindergarten and first grade levels, programming includes studying the characteristics of different sports and playground balls, while simultaneously creating an activity or game involving a ball. The next stages lead to determining which of the various balls is most appropriate for the newly-developed activity. Ultimately, students document their final products with the use of various i-Pad applications.
As the students advance in skill level to the second and third grades, activity and expectation levels also increase. Integrating with their spiraling second-third grade social studies curricula, a relevant science class activity involves walking the campus nature trails and then building an interactive sandbox replica of the trails with topographical mapping software and then explaining the characteristics and suggested ability levels for each trail. From there, students also decide how to best use electronics and/or robotics engineering to simulate the travels of hikers on the trails.
Our fourth grade students round out the Lower School experience with increasingly-sophisticated approaches to technology use, while still keeping the fundamental concepts of design thinking central to their endeavors. The fourth grade students will, for example, study the mechanics and needs of various birds and then build a robotics-based bird that is able to move in a simulated manner and/or complete a given task. When combined with craft materials and recyclable items, these solutions really come to life and round out an impressive Lower School science focus on innovative thinking.