Montessori Centre Academy Now Downloading: Future Engineers

Very early in life children show that they are naturally fascinated by engineering; they just don’t know it yet! Think about our earliest toys.  We built things, tore them apart, and rebuilt them in different, and sometimes, innovative ways.   For this reason it is easy to see how Montessori and engineering go hand-in-hand!

At the Montessori Centre Academy in Glenshaw our fifth graders are presented a unit called an Introduction to Engineering: Invention and Innovations. This unit culminates with a project we like to call “The Shark Tank Project”.  It has grown to become one of several annual projects that Montessori students look forward to as they advance from grade to grade.  Sixth Grader Baylin Bitar said, “I loved doing this project because I came up with something that could really solve a problem.”  Many of the inventions and innovations over the years are memorable. How about a single hanger that holds an entire outfit including socks, under-garments, and accessories, or a shopping cart attachment that uses your shopping list to map out the route through the store in the quickest possible time?

BRAINSTORMING and RESEARCH:

The students use the engineering design process and begin by brainstorming problems to create an innovation.   Is there anything like this out there and, if there is, how I make this innovation different, or better?

DESIGN:

Next, we use cardboard and craft materials to create or design a model, and for the kids, this is the most fun! Montessori students working with their hands to physically assemble what they’ve envisioned in their minds. In real life it is just cardboard and junk, but in their minds they are creating the next new trend!  By this time the students are ‘all in’; they are totally engaged in the project.

MENTORING and MATH:  

Sixth grade students, who completed this project last year, will now come and join in to mentor and assist the fifth graders on how to improve their project. They will troubleshoot with them, and help them evaluate the design, and make suggestions on how to market and valuation of this invention.  According to Sixth Grader Ashton Ragoowansi, “the business side that was applied was extremely fun, where we learned about royalties, stocks, and controlled percentages.”  The sixth graders now get to teach this concept to the fifth graders in a method Montessorians call cooperative learning.

PRESENTATION – Welcome to the Tank:

Keeping with the Shark Tank theme, our students will now present their innovation to the sharks (our sixth graders, teachers, and administrators), who will then ‘mock invest’ in the students’ project.  It has a real feel, just like the TV show, the music plays the lights are low – this is their moment to shine!

There is a flood of benefits to introducing engineering concepts at the elementary school level, preparing them for 21st Century careers, building skills in physics and logic, engaging students in real world learning, just to name a few.  STEM education, which is the latest buzz among education professionals, stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  STEM learning creates cross-curriculum projects that inject experiences with the concepts. Hands on learning isn’t anything new for Montessori, but at Montessori Centre Academy the teachers are consistently learning how to combine Montessori philosophy, brain-based teaching methodology, and cutting edge technology to create an unmatched blend of educational experiences for their students.

About the author:  Rachel Sams has many years experience teaching technology and computers to both children and adults.  Combining her undergraduate Elementary Education degree and her Masters in Technology Education and STEM Education, she developed the curriculum to teach first through sixth grade at The Montessori Centre Academy in Glenshaw, PA for the past six years.  www.montessoricentreacademy.com