The statewide Building Engineers initiative represents a partnership between the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the SERVE Center out of UNC-Greensboro. The goal of the project is to spread high-quality STEM programs throughout NC elementary schools, focused on utilizing the engineering design process in daily instruction.
Access to high-quality STEM instruction is something students of ALL backgrounds deserve in North Carolina. Our modern graduates must be able to work in groups to flexibly solve problems - and if we want them to graduate with these skills we must start in kindergarten!
The approach this initiative takes is both deep and wide. The deep part includes working directly with LEAs in cohorts to assist them in developing 2-year plans for spreading this work within the classrooms in their district. The "wide" part is the establishment of a statewide collaborative of elementary educators interested in these ideas and wiling to champion them in their classrooms. Both pieces culminate in a yearly spring conference held in Moore County, NC: Building Engineers in K-5 Classrooms.
A K-5 Initiative with 6-12+ outcomes!
To prepare our youngest citizens for an exciting and uncertain future, schools must build skills such as creative thinking, problem solving, perseverance, and effective communication. Teaching our children to think like designers can foster this type of thinking.
Lindsey Portnoy, 2018
How It Began
In the fall of 2014, a group of Digital Integration Facilitators (DIFs) in Moore County Schools delivered Lego EV3 and NXT robotics that were scattered across the district to 5 elementary schools to start after-school robotics clubs. In the spring of 2015, MCS held their first Elementary Robotics Showcase. This initial spark lit a fire across all grade levels from kindergarten all the way to advanced robotics within our high schools. This year we will host 5 robotics events that will involve more than 650 students. Most after-school clubs are at capacity and students must apply to be on a robotics team.
The momentum generated from this movement led the MCS digital learning team to expand the positive impact beyond after-school clubs and directly into our classrooms. This expansion was fueled by the creation of the K-5 Engineering Thread in the summer of 2016.
The Engineering Thread and Innovation Academy
I don’t think anyone just gave up when they were frustrated. I think that frustration was turned into ‘what now’? It was as much a project on teamwork and discussions on the process of building as it was a STEM project to develop the catapult.
-Ms. Haarlow, 3rd Grade Teacher, Pinehurst ES
The engineering thread is a set of 12 engineering mini projects, woven directly into Moore County School's K-5 math and science pacing guides. These projects incorporate both robotics and traditional materials (such as popsicle sticks, aluminum foil, and cardboard). The response to this curricular thread was immediate, enthusiastic, and overwhelming: the scramble was on to meet teacher demands for more!
The success of this work led to Moore County Schools being named 1 of 4 Innovation Academies by the NCDPI. This allowed MCS to host 800+ educators from across the state through site visits and the development of the annual conference / robotics showcase- Building Engineers in K-5 Classrooms. Now, through a partnership between NCDPI and the SERVE Center, this work can grow and expand to reach even more students!