The Engineering Design Process (EDP) has changed everything about how I handle STEM activities in my classroom. When I went to school, we followed the Scientific Method; following specific directions to get 1 answer at the end of the experiment. The EDP works differently. The Engineering Design Process is an exercise that helps students understand that science takes time and can produce different results.
Using the EDP in Kindergarten doesn’t have to be challenging. It actually lends itself to the creativity of your students. Here is how I address the Engineering Design Process in Kindergarten.
What are the steps of the Engineering Design Process?
I am going to walk you through the steps using the book “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” as an example.
1. Define a problem– What do you need to solve? How can we solve it? The book is set in a fictional town called Chewsandswallow, where the weather rains down bits of food. The food eventually gets bigger and bigger until the towns people are forced to flee. This is your problem.
2. Do background research– You could begin researching by reading books about extreme weather and how people around the world handle these events.
3. Specify requirements– give your students a list of things that they MUST DO and CAN’T DO. You must: build a contraption that catches liquid, use at least 3 materials, and build it tall enough for people to hide underneath (I use lego people or blocks to represent height). You can’t: lean the contraption against something (free standing).
4. Brainstorm solutions– this is my favorite part! Let students discuss with each other and draw a basic sketch or “blueprint” of what they want to build. This could look like a picture of a bowl on top of a tower that would hide the people underneath.
5. Choose the best solution– have students speak with each other to decide which design OR what parts of designs that they want to combine into their project. *5 year olds need the most practice here. They have to communicate with each other. If you need a resource to help you check out my Communicate in STEM blog post.
What comes after you’ve brainstormed?
6. Do development work– let the students build! Offer assistance and guidance as they construct their food traps. When they run into a problem, remind students to think about what they have previously brainstormed. Refer them back to their planning page.
7. Test & Re-design– This is such a crucial step for the Engineering Design Process. There is not a “correct” answer but a end goal that may look different for every group. The design process is finished when students have met the MUST/CAN’T Do’s of the project or when time is up.
If you’ve read this far, you now know the steps to the Engineering Design Process. I think it makes more sense to teach in this order than it does to go through the Scientific Method. It allows for more creativity and problem solving skills this way.
Thanks for reading friends!