Lesson 2

Catching the Wind: Designing Windmills

Who are Mechanical Engineers? / Grade 2 / Framingham, MA

The EIE Curriculum

EiE - Catching the Wind: Designing Windmills, L2

Students think like mechanical engineers as they observe and analyze the moving parts of common machines.

Reflection Questions

Why do you think the lesson begins with a discussion about the characters in the storybook?

Since Lesson 2 is about what mechanical engineers do and how they think, Pat guides students to remember the mechanical engineers they met in the story in Lesson 1.

  • Pat first asks, "Who are some of the mechanical engineers in the story?" By starting with questions about characters in the story, Pat has gently encouraged students to think about what mechanical engineers do in a familiar context. (0:17)
  • After talking about the characters' jobs and activities some more, Pat finally asks, "What do you think mechanical engineers do?" Pat is encouraging students to use their knowledge of what happened in the story to construct and contextualize their ideas, not just recite a definition from memory. (1:03)
  • Later, when Pat introduces terms like efficiency and machines, she still couches those abstract terms in terms of people and the jobs they do. (1:50)


Based on Pat's conversation with her students, do you think they understand the terms "action" and "reaction?" What level of understanding is crucial for this lesson?

Pat consistently uses the terms "action" and "reaction," and students use the terms somewhat less consistently. Despite this, students' descriptions of what they're seeing show that they can engage with the key ideas of the lesson.

  • Pat asks her student where he "acts on" the machine to make it work. He responds by telling her what happens after you move the handle. Later, at 7:28, Pat again helps him identify the "action" (7:03). Although the student has not yet clearly distinguished the terms "action" and "reaction," he shows evidence of understanding how the mechanism works and can describe cause and effect.
  • Pat's conversation with a student about the mechanical pencil shows the same vague usage of terms, but he, too can clearly describe how the mechanism works (8:45). Both these students, though struggling with vocabulary, show that they have the ability to engage and grapple with the key ideas of this lesson.