Hi! My name is Susan Cahalane and I teach hands-on science to students in grades PK – 4 at Oak Hill Academy in Lincroft, NJ. I believe children are natural scientists and it is my job as their instructor to nurture and develop their innate curiosity. I created an engineering lesson plan entitled Gnome Engineers, where I give my students a problem to solve involving imaginary creatures called gnomes. My first graders became engineers – not only did they design bridges to help solve the gnomes’s problem, they actually made 3-dimensional models using recycled materials! Kids love designing and creating on their own and my lesson plan encourages them to think like engineers. I do not tell my students how to build a bridge. We began by examining the structures of well known bridges such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Tower Bridge, etc. and then my students worked in pairs designing and ultimately building bridges for the gnomes. They learned not by me telling them what every bridge needed to be sturdy and stand upright but through trial and error which I feel is the best way for children to learn the engineering process! At the end of this unit, every group had designed a unique and functional bridge. The children’s creativity never ceases to amaze me and I love to see the triumphant looks on their faces when they bring design ideas to life! Attached please find 5 photos of their creations. Thank you for considering this submission!
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