Why Engineering for Children?
Introducing children to engineering in elementary school brings a host of benefits
If you’ve ever watched children at play, you know they’re fascinated with building things—and with taking things apart to see how they work. In other words, children are natural-born engineers. Research suggests that when children engineer in a school setting, positive things happen.
Building Science and Math Skills
Engineering calls for children to apply what they know about science and math. Their learning is enhanced as a result. And because engineering activities are based on real-world technologies and problems, they help children see how disciplines like math and science are relevant to their lives.
Research suggests engineering activities help build classroom equity. The stigma from failure is removed; instead, failure is an important part of the problem-solving process and a positive way to learn. Equally important, there’s no one “right” answer in engineering; one problem can have many solutions. With classroom engineering, all students can see themselves as successful.
Hands-on, project-based learning is the essence of engineering. As groups of students work together to answer questions like “How large should I make the canopy of this parachute?” or “What material should I use for the blades of my windmill?” they collaborate, think critically and creatively, and communicate with one another.
Research shows that when engineering is part of elementary instruction, students become more aware of engineering, science, and technical careers. This finding is important at a time when the number of American college students pursuing engineering education is decreasing. Early introduction to engineering can encourage many capable students—but especially girls and minorities—to consider engineering as a career and take the necessary science and math courses in high school.What's more, engineering activities often require students to work in teams, where they build the collaboration and communication skills critical for career success in any field.
Finally, consider some of our nation’s most pressing policy issues: energy, healthcare, the environment. Engineering and technological literacy will be critical for all American citizens to make informed decisions in the 21st century.
“[With EiE] the students were much more engaged in school. They were interested in news events that dealt with engineering issues, such as the spring flood and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I saw them becoming active participants in class discussions and confident because they had background information that they were applying correctly.”