Kindergarten Engineering

An article in the NY Times today discussed a new movement to teach engineering to primary students. According to the article,

Supporters say that engineering reinforces math and science skills, promotes critical thinking and creativity, and teaches students not to be afraid of taking intellectual risks.

Clearly, my next step was to check out the available modules; I was disappointed to find there were no modules addressing information technology. It was an interesting set of topics, though, set in different contexts and different countries. I looked at the industrial engineering module (I do, after all, have a BSIE). The module introduced the topic of how machines make work easier, a traditional topic in IE. The materials include a children’s book (which chronicles two young girls’ trip to the potato chip factory where they learn how machines make work safer), a teacher’s manual, a DVD with vignettes about machines and a set of materials. Not a bad collection.

So, on and off today I have been thinking about what activity could be developed to help young children appreciate programming or other aspects of technology. I thought about creating a “human computer” where only some children could compute and others could write on the board and others carried messages, etc. Would that help them understand it? What kind of book would go along with that topic?

Then I thought about having them explain precise instructions of how to do something. The tasks in the program, according to the teachers interviewed, were to teach the children to “take students step by step through the engineering process: design, build, test, evaluate.” Well, those are good things to learn. But, how to apply them to information technology?

I still don’t have an answer, but I do have a question. Does anyone else have an answer?

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