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In the Classroom: The Starlights

Encouraging Young Engineers

I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education as part of the Early Childhood Education degree that I am pursuing at Temple University.
In particular, I’ve been addressing the underrepresentation of women and ethnic minority groups in the STEM workforce. Because ethnic minority groups are overrepresented and girls are equally represented in afterschool programs, high-quality STEM learning in these programs can have a real impact on the future of our workforce.
As a recent “Surprise Friday” activity, a group of Starlights had the chance to become engineers. At the beginning of the lesson I offered them the following problem: a storm had washed out a bridge that was critical for transporting relief supplies.
Their mission was to design and build a solution to this problem by constructing a car and a bridge so that supplies could be carried from one side of the river to another.
Working together, they creatively solved the engineering problem using the K’Nex building system. I supported my students by acting as their consultant. They were actively engaged throughout the lesson and had many opportunities to use their burgeoning interpersonal communication skills to collaborate with one another. 
I’m happy to report that relief supplies were successfully transported across the river to uproarious acclamations and that the Starlights have an engineering gig to add to their resumes.