Getting Out of the Box

After a sabbatical last year, I had forgotten how busy and how draining the last few months of the school year can be, particularly when you are dealing with seniors. It is difficult to find time to breathe let alone blog!

I have started sorting through what has worked and not worked well this year, particularly in my engineering class. I will be getting some specific feedback from my students in the next few days, but anecdotally, they all seem to have enjoyed and learned the most from projects that have figuratively gotten them “out of the classroom”.  One of their favorites has been a project combining appropriate technology and fluid mechanics to design disaster-proof housing for the global location of their choice. Amazing results in terms of creativity and innovation plus a clear understanding of both Archimedes’ and Bernoulli’s Principles, but most importantly empathy and cultural awareness.

The ease with which an engineering approach facilitates 21st century skills development and global values cannot be measured. It can take science far beyond the classroom, not just into the real lives of our students but into lives and places far beyond their borders. Most importantly, it empowers them. It is disingenuous of us to simply make students aware of global problems we have created without giving them a sense of where the solutions may lie. And it is critical that they view those solutions as being within reach.

None of this can happen if teachers and students never move beyond the box that the traditional classroom maps out. Students need to work in groups, not in rows, and classroom walls need to come down by virtue of the Internet. We all need to get out of the box if we hope to think “out of the box”!!

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