NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Traditionally, educators tell students to put their reading books away when it’s time for math and science instruction.
Quite the opposite happens when teachers utilize an integrated approach called “Novel Engineering.” Raguet Elementary in Nacogdoches was introduced to the program by Stephen F. Austin State University’s School of Elementary Education.
"What are ya'll inventing?," asks elementary education professor, Dr. Lauren Burrow.
A student proudly responds, “A robot.”
No state assessment test is needed to prove Raguet Elementary students are critical thinkers. Novel Engineering proves that.
"This is ‘Cloudy With the Chance of Meatballs'. It’s by Judy Barrett,” Burrow said, showing off the book. “It’s the book they read.”
Raguet Elementary student Olivia Ajero explains the plot.
“And they always get their meals above the sky because their weather is very unusual."
Any classroom literature works for readers to identify problems.
"We're trying to solve how to get all the food off their island," explained student Eric Stevenson.
They then design realistic solutions.
Stevenson added, “We’re trying to make a catapult.”
Toward the end of the assignment, groups of four engineer their design with a minimal amount of materials.
"No tape," exclaimed student Megan Fox.
“We got to make it work,” Stevenson chimed in.
Fox concluded, "I guess we have to use glue."
Ajero got to work.
“Let me see.” Stevenson politely asked. “Want me to help you out?”
“Sure," Ajero said gladly.
“There’s not a right or wrong way to do it,” Burrow said. “It’s about trial and error. It’s about making a mistake. It’s about, ‘Well, that doesn’t work. What else could we do?’ And let your imagination go."
The SFA School of Elementary Education introduced the concept to Raguet teachers during summer workshops. They learned how the engineering design process reinforces literary skills. Students picked it up on it quickly.
“Because we can tell what the problem is as we read,” Ajero said. “Like, you can better understand what the problem is and for the science you can know how to solve the problem which helps the reading skills, too.”
Another student simplified the results.
“You can make cool stuff. It actually helps your brain.” the student said.
The event is generously supported by a community grant from NIBCO. All students will receive a copy of the book to remind them innovative learning can be fun.
Suggestions on how to utilize the teaching concept can be found at novelengineering.org.