Bridging Science and Math with Classroom Engineering
Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
by Kristin Sargianis
The Next Generation Science Standards, recently adopted in California, highlight the connections between science and engineering. As children design solutions to engineering challenges, they naturally apply their science content knowledge and engage in science practices. However, engineering also provides meaningful opportunities for children to apply what they are learning in math.
Recently, the Engineering is Elementary (EiE) curriculum project has fielded quite a few requests from teachers looking to use engineering activities to help address the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics. To meet this demand, our team has developed a number of different integrated engineering activities. The “Engineering Sailboats” activity described below serves as a great example for how science, math, and engineering can be integrated in meaningful ways. We hope it inspires you to think about how to authentically integrate mathematics into the science and engineering YOU teach!
In this activity, students are challenged to engineer sails that can “catch the wind” and push a model sailboat. The “boat” is modeled using a foam raft attached to a track made of fishing line and a table or box fan generates the“wind.”
Video taken by Engineering is Elementary staff
Use authentic measurement and data analysis opportunities to integrate science, engineering, and mathematics in your classroom
Students first explore the materials available for their sail designs: tissue paper, index cards, felt, aluminum foil, plastic grocery bags, wax paper, cellophane tape, and coffee stirrers. After thinking about the properties of each material, the students make predictions about how well each material will (or will not) catch the wind. Working in small groups, students design and create sails out of any combination of the above materials—their only constraint is that they must use a craft stick “mast” to anchor their sail in the foam raft.
Before testing, a class discussion guides students to think about how they will measure the distance their sails travel down the fishing line track. The discussion encourages students to think critically about which units of measure and measuring tools (e.g., ruler, yardstick, meter stick, measuring tape, etc.) might be most appropriate for collecting these data. Students discuss and agree upon which unit (and tool) they will use to measure the distances their sails travel. Students subsequently test their sails, measure how far the raft travels down the track, and record their results on a line plot. Groups work to redesign and improve their sails based on their observations. They test their second designs and measure and record their results on the same line plot.
This authentic measurement experience, along with the resulting line plot, gives students an opportunity to analyze data in a meaningful way by answering such questions as, “Did your second sail design travel farther than your first sail design? How much further?” Then, to conclude the activity students return to their earlier predictions about which materials will work well to catch the wind and use their data to draw some conclusions about which properties of a material affect its ability to catch the wind.
A number of Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards for Mathematics are addressed in this simple engineering challenge, which can easily be adapted for students of various ages and abilities:
Common Core State Standards for Mathematics
- Measure the length of an object by selecting and using appropriate tools such as rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, and measuring tapes. (2.MD.1)
- Measure to determine how much longer one object is than another, expressing the length difference in terms of a standard length unit. (2.MD.4)
- Generate measurement data by measuring lengths of several objects to the nearest whole unit…Show the measurements by making a line plot, where the horizontal scale is marked off in whole-number units. (2.MD.9)
Next Generation Science Standards
- Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose. (2-PS1-2)
- Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs. (K-2-ETS1-3)
In Your Classroom
We hope that this example might inspire you to use engineering as way to authentically integrate the science and mathematics you are already teaching in your classroom. For more inspiration, check out the free EiE extension lessons on our website, which connect EiE curriculum units to science, Common Core mathematics, and more!
Kristin Sargianis is Director of Professional Development for “Engineering is Elementary” at the Museum of Science in Boston, MA
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…