Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An Engineer at 3-years-old?

Surely, just because Andrew's such a clever three-year-old playing
with his Legos, doesn't mean he's going to grow up to be an engineer. After all his Dad played with Legos too, and he's not an engineer.

But wait. Seems elementary schools across the country are
teaching engineering . . . with help.

City College of New York (CUNY) promotes a program to teach
kindergartners engineering concepts. "Stuff that Works" only costs $17 per teacher to implement. CUNY also has a program to teach
engineering to Girl Scouts. And City College of New York isn't alone.

The Boston Museum of Science with funding from Intel charges $6,000 to fully equip an entire elementary school for Engineering is Elementary. Texas Instruments funds the Infinity Project developed by Southern Methodist University for high school students.

Once you move into middle school and high school, the price goes up. Project Lead the Way, partnering with Lockheed Martin, charges high schools $75,000 for a four-year program to teach kids engineering principles. 2,200 schools have found the money to take advantage
of this opportunity.

Even Lego's doing it's share of engineering outreach. Sponsored by Tufts University and paid for by NASA, LegoVIEW is designed to teach engineering concepts K-12. Using software and those little plastic bricks, kindergartners in Medford, Massachusetts built their own town with automated bus stops.

Why? Lockheed, Texas Instruments, and Intel care about the severe shortage of engineers. Fewer and fewer American kids are going on to graduate school in engineering.

And schools care about test scores in math and science. Remember those Finnish kids from a few blog posts ago? Maybe having working scientists help write the curriculum and boosting the work with corporate money will help save U.S. kids from being at the bottom of the heap in science and math.

We don't know yet. The research isn't in. It's too early in this experiment to see if test scores are higher for kids who take these classes. Much less to know if a corporate-funded K-12 engineering curriculum increases the number of engineers. But given our current track record, these programs are sure worth a try.

I'm not alone here. Massachusetts requires engineering content in grades K-12. New Hampshire and New Jersey followed suit. And Texas is considering it, as corporate engineering groups lobby school boards and state legislatures. Even the U.S. Department of Education agrees and will include technology and engineering concepts in national assesment tests in 2009.

However, in order for any engineering, science, or math projects to work, we need to focus on brain-based learning with programs like Brain Gym to help right-brain dominant kids use the left-side of their brain. I sure don't know any right-brain dominant engineers!

Hmm. Wonder if the shortage of engineers and low math and science test scores are related to the ever-increasing number of right-brain dominant children?

Who knows? Given his head start with Legos, maybe in two years, Andrew will be in the advanced placement kindergarten engineering class after all.


P.S. Wondering if your child is right-brain or left-brain dominant? They can take the kids' brain dominance test Want to know about your class? All the kids can take the quiz. And you can take the grown-up version

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