Students in Mr. Marcotte’s kindergarten Project Lead the Way class are braver than the Three Little Pigs. The porcine trio never invited the Big Bad Wolf to blow their house down. Mr. Marcotte’s students dared him.
“We’re ready, we’re ready,” students screamed.
So, Mr. Marcotte brought his hand-held leaf blower with a stuffed-animal wolf head on the attachment, and sent bursts of air to try and knock down the homes the students built. The structures, made from blocks, toothpicks, popsicle sticks, and clay, all withstood the assault.
The exercise is part of a kindergarten lesson about how to engineer solutions starting with fairy tales and ending with a real-world problem.
“I think of my job is feeding off of what they already love to do,” said Mr. Marcotte. “You think of kids building with blocks to keep out the bad guys.”
Kindergarten students aren’t the only young engineers enjoying the PLTW lessons.
UPK students are learning about life science by building a bird feeder and designing a new habitat for an animal affected by habitat loss.
First graders are exploring the properties of light by putting themselves in the shoes of a group of hikers who split in two directions. One of the smaller groups gets lost and they have to eventually build a device using light or sound to help them reunite with the larger group.
“When you put your hand over a light, you make a shadow,” said first grader Owen Knapp.
All of the activities from the PLTW Launch program are meant to introduce the principals of engineering to Windsor’s youngest students.
“We’re building problem-solving and collaborative skills at a young age, and doing so in an engaging way,” said Scott Beattie, Windsor CSD Assistant Superintendent for Instruction.
Successfully building a light device, bird feeder, or model home is nice, but not necessarily the entire point. In fact, in can be just as valuable if it doesn’t work the first time.
“I want them to learn, ‘Don’t quit. You’ve got a good start. Let’s figure it out,’” said Mr. Marcotte. “Failure is a place to learn, it’s not an end result.”
PLTW Launch is part of Windsor’s approach to build 21st-century science, technology, engineering, and math skills, including coding, and traditional science classes.
“When other teachers bring their classes to my room, they say the kids are always excited to come. That’s what I want. That means they’re excited about engineering,” said Mr. Marcotte.