Engineering for k-12? It’s not that wild an idea, especially with math and engineering magnet schools springing up around the country. Engineers are problem solvers who use math, science, and creativity to make things work better. These are skills we’ll all find useful in the 21st century.
As it happens, we have a lot of engineering lessons at FreshPlans. Many of them are explorations connected with our folktale and fairy tale lessons, so you might not find them without a list. Here’s the list:
- The Princess on a Glass Hill examines the challenges involved in climbing a glass hill. This brings up characteristics of materials, angle of ascent, and problem solving.
- The Elves and the Shoemaker compares assembly line and “cottage industry” approaches to manufacturing, as well as questions of materials and design.
- Cinderella includes an experiment on materials appropriate for shoes. You could use that for “The Elves and the Shoemaker” too.
- The Three Little Pigs have some engineering issues in building their houses.
- Rapunzel brings up some questions about the tensile strength of hair, the practicality of climbing hair as a method of getting into the tower, and the construction of the tower itself.
- The Three Billy Goats Gruff are a great starting point for a lesson on bridge building. They also have a problem which an engineer might be able to solve.
- The Twelve Dancing Princesses has resources on new research into the property of invisibility, plus an idea for testing materials.
More of our plans:
- Skylines Lesson Plans
- SketchUp Log Cabin
- Think Like an Engineer
- Careers in Engineering
- Energy Engineering
- Earthquakes Lesson Plans
- Materials Science
Other online resources:
- TryEngineering.org has a collection of lesson plans ranging from the classic assembly line simulation to building your own robot arm.
- TeachEngineering.org has hundreds of lesson plans, and you can search by keywords.
- The Engineering Place has a varied set, some of which you may be familiar with already and some of which will be new to you, for sure.
These books all have cool ideas for engineering experiments, demonstrations, and discussions you can try in your classroom.
- Janice VanCleave’s Engineering for Every Kid: Easy Activities That Make Learning Science Fun Janice VanCleave’s books are always fun and practical. This one contains lots of ideas.
- Engineering the City: How Infrastructure Works is one of my favorite books. It looks at actual things in actual cities and how they work, and then gives kids an opportunity to try the concepts out in practical (if sometimes ambitious) ways.
- Catastrophe!: Great Engineering Failure-And Success, from Scientific American, looks at some of the famous engineering disasters, including the Tacoma Narrows bridge. Read To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design for background or with older students. One more on this topic, a more challenging read but still fascinating, is Set Phasers on Stun: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error.
- The Flying Circus of Physics is another great favorite of mine, and it also discusses the Tacoma Narrows bridge. This book consists of a whole bunch of intriguing questions, with answers and sometimes demonstration suggestions. It’s about physics, but it also includes a lot of engineering issues.
- 101 Spy Gadgets for the Evil Genius is just one of the Evil Genius series, but it’s a favorite of mine. The projects are practical and your class will love them, though they’re not the sort of thing you can count on being able to do with a stapler and your box of recyclables. For that, try VanCleave.
- The Great Wheel is a novel, and a very good one, but the world’s first Ferris wheel is a major character, and there are a lot of concepts of engineering articulated in the book.