Researcher: Beth Dykstra Van Meeteren, Ed. D., University of Northern Iowa
As we were developing the Ramps and Pathways curriculum with 3 to 8-year-old children, we were fascinated with how engaged the children were year after year with Ramps and Pathways. They never seemed to tire of it. Were they that intrigued with force and motion? As I read the National Research Council's publication, Engineering in K-12 Education, it appeared to me that children may not have just been fascinated with opportunities to engage in rudimentary physics, it may have been the appeal of designing and engineering that was so engaging for the children.
A small research study observed and analyzed the actions of first-grade children in a constructivist classroom as they engaged in Ramps and Pathways. The study focused on the children's actions as they constructed their own technology of marble runs. The constant comparative method was used to (a) describe and catalog children's actions; (b) describe and categorize the different design process tools young children independently used; and (c) identify children's behaviors that potentially represented precursors to engineering habits of mind. The following research questions were used to guide the investigation:
1. What engineering habits of mind do young children engage with as they design and build structures during independent open-ended explorations that can lead to investigations?
2. What design process tools do primary grade students employ to construct structures used in Ramps and Pathways systems?
3. Is it essential for children to follow a linear design model to engage in the design process?
4. What kinds of problems can young children pose to themselves as they design and build?
Kinds of Problems Children Pose or Encounter
How will I make the marble move using the materials provided?
- Straight Pathways
- Making objects move on single section ramps of any length
- Making objects continue to move on a series of tracks on a straight pathway
- Making objects continue to move on a series of tracks on a straight pathway with target at end
Making objects continue to move on a pathway with hills
Making objects continue to move on a pathway with a drop
Making objects continue to move on a pathway with a jump
- Changing Directions
- Making objects turn a corner
- Making objects continue to move on a pathway with angles not requiring a banking system
- Making objects continue to move on a pathway with angles requiring a banking system
- Making objects reverse direction (switchbacks)
- More Than One Moving Part
- Making objects continue to move on a pathway with fulcrums
- Making objects move (roll, fall, fly, etc.) into a containers
- Making objects knock down or crash into a target (blocks, domino, animals, cars, etc.)
- Movement or non-movement of an object (getting an object to move or stay)
- Moving objects farther
- Moving object faster and slower (to negotiate corners, switchbacks, drops, jumps, and hills)
- Categorizing characteristics of objects according to how they move on an incline
- Categorizing characteristics of objects according to how far they move
- Categorizing characteristics of objects according to their speed or how fast they move
- Categorizing characteristics of objects according to difficulty in changing its direction
Centering on one end of a supported ramp section and not the other end
Constructing a stable support (solid foundation, tall narrow blocks as opposed to a stable stack of blocks, etc.)
Placement of support to hold up ramp section
Placement of support to control degree of slope
Efficient placement of supports to build economically
- Method of Connecting
- Making objects move over a butted connection
- Making objects move over an overlapping connection
- Making objects continue to move along a pathway with a drop connection
- Making objects continue to move along a pathway with a jump connection
- Making objects continue to move along a pathway with a variety of angled connections
Comparing Definitions for Engineering Habits of Mind
|Term||NRC (2008) Definition of Engineering Habits of Mind||Operational Definitions of Engineering Habits of Mind in Young Children|
Attention to Ethical Considerations