Elementary Engineering — For our Primary School Kids in Kildare & Beyond
With 3 inquisitive little minds around me all day I was looking for ways to keep them occupied and came across this interesting company called Elementary Engineering.
Elementary Engineering is a hands-on science program that gives students the opportunity to work through the engineering process and introduce them to the wonderful world of physics.
Scott Ziglinski is an American teacher living in Ireland who just loves to teach primary school youngsters about engineering and physics. Scott and his wife run a small business called Elementary Engineering, which is a hands-on 2- or 3-day science course that lets children as young as five work their own way through the process of everyday engineering and physics.
“I got interested in the subject when I was a teacher myself,” says Scott, who has been in Ireland since 2006. “I was a science teacher, primarily biology and chemistry, but we also had to teach things like physics. And that’s where I found, demonstrating how things move and what energy is, was when the kids’ eyes lit up.”
From that experience he built up a specific children’s engineering programme, and eventually began providing it to other teachers under a state-funded training programme in the Evergreen School District near Vancouver in Washington state. Scott married an Irish woman and moved here.
His method of working is to establish a quick, kind of crazy, rapport with the new group of youngsters. He gives them absolute freedom to do their own thing, in pairs in the class, with a ground rule that when he gives them a hand signal or rings a cow bell, they quiet down and listen. “Otherwise I want it to be noisy. If it’s not noisy, then they’re not talking to their partners, not trying things out, not getting excited. That means the lesson isn’t working. I want them moving, I want them using up energy.”
His lessons are a lot about energy, what it is and how it works. “Teachers are sometimes scared of physics as a subject, but actually it’s the easiest science to teach. I can take the kids to the playground and demonstrate a whole lot of physics in how they play.” It can be as simple as playing marbles, demonstrating kinetic energy, the energy of movement. And how that energy is transferred when another one is hit. “The kids don’t talk about energy transfer, they say it’s ‘shared’, and discuss whether all of it is shared.”
Over the day the teams build roller-coasters, little cars that can be powered by rubber bands, electric motors, or air. It’s very much using the ‘MacGyver’ principle — a few toothpicks, a rubber-band, and a magnet can be made into almost anything. With a colleague from Oregon, Scott developed a multi-use ‘gidget’ which is simple, cheap, and can be used as a base for all sorts of movement and motive power engineering lessons. “You can have science class kits that cost $1,500 a time, but what I wanted was something inexpensive, which is equally usable by 5-year-olds or 12-year-olds and that can be shared through the school.”
And which makes the eyes light up. Because that’s what real teaching does …
Check out this short video
Upcoming sessions will be held in Kilcullen Community Centre between 18–21 April inclusive, the first two days aimed at 3rd-6th Class pupils, the other two for 1st and 2nd Class children. Check out the website and facebook page listed below for further details.