Post by Alison Earnhart, MakerSpace Maven
When I learned that Ms. Jen and Ms. Lisa’s Kindergarten & First Grade class was going to have a theme of “Paper” for the year, I was so excited! As an engineering teacher I am fascinated by how paper, in its myriad forms, can be used for building, designing, making, and doing. I’ve been brainstorming with both teachers on all the different ways we can infuse my engineering teaching as an embedded specialist with this paper theme, and we’ve got more ideas than we have class days to teach them!
I’m new to working with this age group, and I’m excited to be spending every Monday afternoon in Room 1. Honestly, their makerspace is cooler than the whole InnoLab in my opinion. I’m really impressed with the depth and breadth of materials and tools they have, and how neatly they’re stored. It’s a gold standard that I aspire to. Beyond makerspace management, I’m learning so much about teaching and collaborating with Kindergartenters and First Graders. It’s really fun, and also very challenging in new ways. I was telling a friend the other day that now having taught the full spectrum of ages and topics, I will firmly state for the record that I had a much easier time teaching quantum physics to undergraduates than I’m having now teaching these brilliant small humans in Room 1. It’s a challenge I’m happy to rise to.
In these first few days, I’ve been focusing on the basics of engineering and building, using paper as the primary material. It’s always exciting to help students discover just how strong paper can be when it is in the right shape. We discussed and experimented with various kinds of paper columns and basic shapes — circles, squares, triangles, cones, and “accordion folds”. After learning some foundational building techniques, I let the students loose on two different design challenges. The first challenge was to build towers for height and stability, the second challenge was to build for sturdiness. I think the second challenge was the class favorite, as students got really excited to place classroom objects ranging from tissue boxes and pairs of scissors to wooden blocks and books on top of their towers to test for strength.
During this time, I’m learning far more from them than they are from me. I get to observe their motor skills, their reasoning and thought processes, their preferences and aversions, and their drive to learn, share, and explore. It’s inspiring and fascinating and I feel like a brand-new teacher in some ways. I’m already brainstorming and crafting new lessons and activities based on my observations and learnings. I can’t wait for each new Monday afternoon!