Wednesday, March 13, 2013

ECBC engineers, chemists visit Darlington Elementary School to help students ‘engineer’ real-world solutions

Contributed by Darlington Elementary School Teacher Annmarie Steltzer

Six chemical and environmental engineers from the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center recently supported Darlington Elementary School’s fourth- and fifth-grade science curriculum by providing students with fun, hands-on learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

 Participating ECBC teams turned the fourth and fifth-grade classroom into laboratories. They supplied proper equipment including safety glasses and gloves and an array of different materials such as coffee filters, cotton balls, carbon, wooden spatulas, twist-ties, and play dough to effectively engage students in real-life STEM experiences.

Based on the Engineering is Elementary (EiE) scenario in the storybook “Yi Min’s Great Wall,” the Center’s Engineers Jadey Pareja, Chad Gross and David Love offered students the opportunity to design, build and test a protection wall or fence to withstand wind, water, and impact.  After completing their designs according to specific requirements and running tests, students were encouraged to improve their structures as the final step of the engineering process.

“It made me think about the job of an engineer and it was fun to hear about what they do. They related everything we did to their actual jobs,” shared fourth-grade student Derek Caiazzo.

Fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Nealy added, “It was neat to see my student engineers work side-by-side with real-world engineers. What a wonderful experience for my students!”

In fifth grade, Engineers Bruce Steltzer, Cindy Learn, and Steven Yurechko described what their jobs entailed and then provided the students with a hands-on demo of the engineering principles behind water filtration based on the EiE unit “Saving Salila’s Turtle.”  Students first created a plan, which laid out the types of materials they would use and how they would layer them to create the most effective filtration system.  

Charlie Marts, a fifth-grader at DAES, stated “I think it was cool to learn different ways that real engineers and scientists filter water or air.”

"The students really enjoyed learning about the real-world application of filtration techniques in gas masks and Army helmets. They were fascinated by the possible engineering career opportunities both within and outside of the military,” added fifth-grade teacher, Angela DeLuigi.

“We want to help children discover STEM education in their earliest learning stages, because this is when they start developing their interests and abilities,” said ECBC Community and Educational Outreach Program Manager Mary Doak. “The Engineering is Elementary curriculum perfectly lends itself to teaching the engineering design process and solving real-world problems in different contexts.”

ECBC’s Community and Educational Outreach Program, partially funded by the National Defense Education Program, focuses on exposing students to STEM experiences that challenge them to solve problems using methods like the engineering design process. Due to EiE’s multi-disciplinary and student-centric approach, ECBC’s Community and Educational Outreach Program has adapted it as a main thrust into its STEM educational outreach efforts.

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