Friday, January 10, 2014

An Engineering Possibility For Young Readers

I believe I've mentioned sometime over the years that we are an engineering family. Well, the Gauthiers aren't, but the family I married into is. Three generations of engineers among those folk. That's how I come to have a copy of PE in my house each month. The most recent issue includes an article on Emily Hunt and Michelle Pantoya, engineering professors who write the Engineering Everything series for older elementary students. Designing Dandelions is their most recent publication.

I have not read this book, but the description in PE makes it sound as if it puts instruction up front rather than story. "Designing Dandelions is their most recent book and aims to teach students that engineering involves learning from failures to design something better." Usually, I'm not drawn to the overtly instructive.

Why Designing Dandelions Caught My Interest

However, I was intrigued by a couple of things in the PE article on Designing Dandelions.

  • It says that Hunt and Pantoya "learned that young children have no concept of what engineers do." Yeah, I can tell you that many, many adults have no concept of what engineers do, either.
  • The business about engineering involving learning from failure in order to design something better is fascinating, too. According to PE, Hunt and Pantoya attended Engineering is Elementary workshops and that program "emphasizes that failure is an inherent part of the engineering design process...and that there shouldn't be a stigma associated with failure."
What I find so interesting about teaching the acceptance of failure as a part of engineering process is that it makes me wonder how that compares to the way writing process is perceived and taught. Are children taught to expect rejection of their writing? To expect critiquing, to learn how to respond to that critiquing so they can make their work better? Are they taught that some of their work may not be publishable as it is and isn't ready to submit? Are they taught that making those kinds of decisions are a big, big part of being a writer the way learning from failure is part of engineering?

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