Engineering A Love For Science In Kids

September 8, 2014 5:00 AM

Photo Credit Thinkstock
This article is supplied by Raytheon

Kevin Jarrett isn’t your typical computer teacher.

His students build walls from clay, sand and water. They design parachutes from coffee filters. And it’s perfectly fine if the things they build don’t work the first time.

“My class is the only one in the school where we say, ‘Hey, look, you failed, that’s great!’” Jarrett said. “Without failure, there is no learning. You have to learn to fail.”

Jarrett, a teacher at Northfield Community School in Northfield, N.J. is using the Engineering is Elementary curriculum, which encourages students to try new techniques until they find the right answer – just like a real-life engineer.

The program aims to foster a love of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as those skills become increasingly important for tomorrow’s workforce. Raytheon Company, a Waltham, Massachusetts-based aerospace and defense firm, has provided scholarships to teachers from around the U.S. to learn the curriculum.

Many kids don’t understand what engineering is, said Kristin Sargianis, professional development director at Engineering is Elementary.

When asked what an engineer does, many kids imagine them with hammer and screwdriver in hand examining a blueprint to build a bridge, she said.

But engineers create everything from software to fuels. More than half of Raytheon’s 63,000 employees are engineers.

The Engineering is Elementary program includes underserved urban, rural or low-income districts where students often have the least exposure to engineering.

“We’re trying to make engineering available for all kids. It shouldn’t be limited based on where you live,” said Sargianis. “We want kids to know that anyone can engineer and anyone can design technologies to solve problems.”

Engineering is Elementary was designed by the Museum of Science in Boston.

Raytheon is now accepting applications for its Engineering is Elementary Teacher Scholarship Program. During the 2014-15 school year, Raytheon will grant 30 awards of $2,500 each to elementary school teachers nationwide whose applications best demonstrate innovative methods of generating student enthusiasm about engineering concepts. Entry forms for the 2014-15 program can be found at www.mathmovesu.com.