First graders engaged in engineering? Is that possible? Of course it is. It’s never too early to teach students the Engineering Design Process. Before I share a brand new resource with you and your first graders, let’s take a moment to revisit some key ideas.
Introducing This Works!
Okay, so I couldn’t wait, I had to share this exciting new development with you. This Works! offers free materials for educators. They point out the following:
Technology Industries of Finland wants to engage and activate students. It enables them to create and engineer their own machines from recycled materials. At the same time, they will also examine the world through a mathematical framework. The students can gain insights into what they could be when they grow up. What’s more, they explore how technology can change the world.
Technology Industries of Finland is offering the This works! concept – complete with materials – to all first graders free of charge.
That’s right, free of charge. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but what does this involve?
Intended for first graders to use over a seven-week period of time, the materials focus on two aspects: technology skills and tranversal competence. Since the latter is a term I was unfamiliar with, I looked it up. As you might suspect, it is a term specific to different parts of the world, including Finland. Transversal competence is another way to describe 21st century skills. Here’s a short description:
In the new national curriculum, transversal competences play an important role. They integrate into all subjects and all school activities. These skills or competences are much more generic than typical content objectives.
They all refer to the behavior and activities needed in society today and in the future (source).
What is included in transversal competence? Let’s take a closer look:
- Cultural competence, interaction, and expression.
- Managing daily life, taking care of oneself and others
- Multi-literacy or students’ capacity to interpret, produce, and make value judgements. This capacity focuses on different texts and perceiving cultural diversity.
- Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills and competence. This focuses on practical competence, responsibility, information management, and more.
- Working life and entrepreneurial competence.
- Participation, influence, and building a sustainable future.
The goal of transversal competence? Fostering student development as a human being and citizen. That is true, regardless of country. The way that some approach teaching transversal competencies is through project-based learning.
Project-based learning is a student-centered pedagogy. It involves a dynamic classroom approach. Students get a deeper knowledge through active exploration of real-world challenges and problems. (source)
Let’s take a look at This Works! materials.
Fun Academy Characters (see video below to learn more about Fun Academy or read their blog)
This Works! Materials
The free materials available under Creative Commons copyright have several modules. You can see each component linked to the teachers’ guide below:
- Start here preparation
- Seven Modules
- Module 1. Message in a bottle – Rise to the challenge!
- Module 2. Emotions – Preparing for a new project
- Module 3. The jar lid – Together we’re more!
- Module 4. Shapes – Stacking the materials
- Module 5. An exciting basement – Design your machine
- Module 6. Jobs of the future – From my idea to our idea
- Module 7. Breaktime workout – The machine is ready
- Graduation. Gala and Diploma
- This Works! Remotely as well
Each component, including the modules, is replete with activities. Everything is in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF), so easy to access. The teachers’ guides provide suggestions on how to use the materials and the characters from Fun Academy make an appearance throughout.
You can read the entire story for This Works! online to get a head start. Of course, your first graders will experience it as a series of projects.
What Makes This Works! Effective
Wondering what makes this project-based learning approach work? The story content is engaging, featuring the four Fun Academy characters. What’s more, your students will find themselves navigating various games and tasks. They will also construct simple, moving machines in a team environment.
A Few Reflections
Do you love project-based learning? Can you see the value of developing your students’ transversal competencies? Then you will find this project worthwhile to work through with your students. Although I wish they had some sample student creations in video format and some rubrics, the content is solid. The projects orient themselves on Finnish curriculum, but you can make some adjustments and adapt it for TEKS or Common Core.