Welcome to Day two of STEM-tember here at The Curious Catfish!
The engineering design process is to engineers what the scientific method is to scientists. When I started doing STEM activities with kindergarten and first grade students the prospect of using this process with my mini-MacGuyver's felt preposterous. Over the years I've come to realize that this process is intuitive. Essentially, it's how our minds naturally work through problem solving and my students have fully embraced it each year.
So let me break it down for you!
Students will move through these steps naturally when they are problem-solving. Teachers orchestrate the "Ask" and "Imagine" stage, then hand it over to students to create their own solutions.
During the "Plan" and "Create" phase I leave students alone to work with their partners and collaborate. Occasionally, I push in to question their idea or design and challenge them consider their choices. If I see they are making a choice that will fail, I allow them to continue down that path. They can reflect and make changes later but I think it's very important to allow students to fail as long as I'm there to foster critical thinking about that failure and then question them into thinking about how they can approach the task from a different perspective.
The "Improve" and "Present/Discuss" phases are my favorite! Primary students are surprisingly resilient through struggle and failure when they are engaged in an exciting or interesting task. For the first few STEM challenges you may have tears but after they realize it's not the end of the world when you blow their paper house away using your big, bad blowdryer; they learn to laugh and jump right back into figuring out why their idea didn't work and what they can do to accomplish the task. Questioning them about their choice of materials and listening them discuss what went wrong with their partner during this phase will teach you a lot about their reasoning and independent critical thinking skills.
After each challenge I always facilitate a whole group discussion about what went well, what was challenging, what did you change. When appropriate, I also allow students to present/demonstrate their solution. This both models and leads to deeper thinking about the challenge.
All of these materials are available in my FREE STEM Starter Kit! Download it today as a guide to help you implement STEM in your classroom and join me for the next three days to learn about more STEM resources!