The Design Process: Engineering Practices in Preschool

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Ms. Stefanie frames this as a problem, asking them, "How can we transport water from the porch to the sandbox?" Ms. Stefanie helps a small group of interested preschoolers imagine solutions by providing photographs and nonfiction texts of water transportation systems-like pipes, aqueducts, and pulleys-to introduce them to ways others have addressed similar problems. Engineering is Elementary has developed a five-step engineering design process for elementary students (Museum of Science, Boston 2018), which we've paraphrased here: * Ask-to identify the problem and others' solutions * Imagine-to brainstorm and select a solution to test * Plan-to specify the design and materials * Create-to make and test a model * Improve-to ask how the design can be even better and start the cycle again Based on the museum's process, we developed the following slightly modified four-step design process for preschoolers: * Finding a problem: [...]Ms. Stefanie and the children shared their own playground experiences, studied images of playgrounds in other places, examined playground architects' blueprints, gathered data about their own school's playground, and talked to some of the people serving on the preschool's playground renovation committee (teachers, parents, and other volunteers affiliated with the university) about playgrounds in their community. (Clemens 1999, 7) The engineering design process-finding a problem, imagining and planning, creating, and improving-enables educators to engage young children's minds in solving real problems, demonstrate that learning includes testing and revising, and help children explore a wide range of STEM topics.

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Young Children, v. 73, issue 4, p. 89-93