California Educator

November / December 2016

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Real-World Science For Camie Walker's elementary students, engineering makes math and science relevant By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin Photos by Scott Buschman " Y E S T E R D AY W E M A D E 'Play-Doh' from flour, water and salt. Today our mission is to build a better 'Play-Doh' and improve on our model. How can we do that?" asks fifth- grade teacher Camie Walker. In her white lab coat, Walker looks more like a scientist than a teacher. And in some ways, she is. This Garden Grove Education Association member has been exper- imenting with ways to incorporate engineering into curriculum to foster student engagement, motivation and excitement about learning. Her experiment appears to be working. e young sci- entists in her classroom, wearing lab coats with "Future Engineers" printed on the back, are quick to raise their hands and spout hypotheses on ways to improve the tex- ture of the homemade material, so that it's smooth, soft and moldable instead of soggy, gooey or flaky. "You have to add things a little bit at a time, or it gets too sticky or too liquidy, or it sticks to the bag," explains student Tina Huynh. Walker's fifth-grade students, working with visiting first-graders, record their data in notebooks and do tests to determine the right consistency. ough more than 50 students making "Play-Doh" in one classroom could eas- ily turn into bedlam, they are on task and serious about their assignment, while also having serious fun. e Murdy Elementary School teacher never thought much about engineering until she kept hearing the term STEM pop up in education circles, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Of these let- ters, she knew the least about what the E entailed, so she enrolled herself in a multiday Engineering is Elementary class created by the Museum of Science in Boston, where engineers teach teachers about implementing engineer- ing projects in the classroom. It was love at first lesson. She learned that children are fascinated with build- ing things and taking things apart to see how they work, which makes them natural-born engineers. Because engi- neering activities are based on real-world technologies and problem- solving, children discover how math and science are relevant to their lives. 30 Educator Camie Walker, who works with fifth-graders at Murdy Elementary School, says engineering is the pathway between math and science and language arts.

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