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Engineering and Design Learning Opportunities for Elementary Students

Engineering and Design Learning Opportunities

Whether it's a sandcastle or a miniature replica of a famous building, children love to build things. Giving elementary students opportunities to design and build a variety of structures and objects in a classroom setting will help them learn about engineering concepts while also strengthening their math and science skills. Keeping children involved in building things throughout their time in elementary school will also increase the likelihood of them considering a STEM major or career when they graduate high school. Here are a few ways you can provide engineering and design learning opportunities for the students in your elementary classroom:

  1. Incorporate architecture into your lesson plans and classroom environment.
    Teachers may discuss a few famous structures when they teach history, but architecture isn't something that is normally emphasized in elementary classrooms. Finding ways to incorporate architecture into your lesson plans and classroom environment will help children learn about history and situations in the real world while also enabling you to use architecture to teach math and science concepts. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
    • Hang pictures of famous buildings and structures in your classroom.
    • Make sure that books about or relating to architecture are available for students to read.
    • Look for educational videos about architecture that you can play for students in class.
    • Search the internet for games and activities that incorporate architecture and engineering.
  2. Have children build miniature replicas of buildings.
    Whether you provide children with building sets and instructions or have them use materials they can find around the classroom and figure it out on their own, having children build miniature replicas of buildings and structures is a great way to teach them about engineering concepts and the overall building process. To start, have children create their own version of a building or project blueprint. They can then use the blueprint and/or the instructions you gave them to build the miniature replica.
  3. Encourage children to build their own creative designs.
    Once children understand engineering concepts and the building process they can create and build their own creative designs. Make sure children know that it's okay if their designs don't work out the first few times. Trial and error helps children discover what works and leads to them becoming a better child engineer.
  4. Teach children how to build more challenging structures and objects.
    Children can build replicas of famous structures as a starting point, but teaching them to build windmills, robots, and other types of machines will help them learn about engineering in the 21st century. Engineers in today's world strive to create energy efficient structures and machines and utilize available technology in their design.
  5. Take children on an engineering/architecture field trip.
    Visiting museums, historical buildings, or a famous structure near your school is a great way to take learning out of the classroom. Another option is to take children on a field trip around your school. You can talk with students about how different buildings and structures were built and ask them how they would improve the design.

Be sure to browse our list of related products and additional resources for information about teaching STEM and ideas for engineering materials you can incorporate in your classroom.

Additional Resources
Using Block Play to Promote STEM in the Classroom
Supporting STEM Instruction


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