Novel Engineering links literacy, STEM

Novel Engineering links literacy, STEM
Posted on 11/22/2019
Novel Engineering links literacy, STEM

Raguet Elementary teacher Jennifer Hiebert counted out the erasers while the small group of fourth-graders stared intently at their project, a bridge constructed entirely of paper.

When the eraser count reached 21 – and the bridge remained standing – the five students erupted in cheers. Theirs was the first project to pass muster in the Novel Engineering contest held Nov. 21 at Raguet.

Raguet students in kindergarten and Grades 1-5 participated, which unites literacy and STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, math) problem solving together. The different grade levels each read a book, then solve a problem presented in the text.

Fourth-graders read “Twenty-one Elephants and Still Standing,” a children’s book by April Jones Prince that recounts the true story of circus master P.T. Barnum leading a parade of 21 elephants over the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. Barnum’s stunt helped prove the Brooklyn Bridge was safe for heavy traffic.

Books read by other Raguet students included: “Bear Snores On” by Karma Wilson for kindergarten, “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak for first grade, “Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!” by Candace Fleming for second grade, “The Three Javelinas” by Susan Lowell for third grade, and “Pop’s Bridge” by Eve Bunting in fifth grade.

For each group, students received a box full of supplies to be used to construct their project. Each box came with different materials, and students had to make do with the materials on hand to solve a problem presented in the book.

Fourth-graders attempted to construct a bridge that could hold up “21 somethings.” In this case, the “somethings” were pink erasers, since elephants were out of the question.

Roughly halfway through construction, students got a chance to review their progress. Some had to make changes.

“Now does this project match the directions you just heard?” principal Julia Wells asked one group. They shook their heads no, then went to work on a solution. “Maybe we could lift it up,” Avery Pritchett said.

While fourth-graders in the Raguet cafeteria were building bridges, fifth-graders were in the gym working on a project to solve another bridge-related problem. The book “Pop’s Bridge” is the story of a young boy watching from afar as his father – along with thousands of other workers – builds the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

The fifth-graders at Raguet were devising a way to keep bridge workers safe while suspended high above San Francisco Bay, oftentimes in less than ideal weather conditions.

“It’s going to be like a bungee cord,” fifth-grader Victoria Ainsworth patiently explained while her group finished its work.

Raguet began its Novel Engineering challenge last year after NIBCO, a manufacturer of valves and flow-control products with a facility in Nacogdoches, received a grant and reached out to the campus about funding a STEM-related project. The Nacogdoches Wal-Mart donated the supplies that were used by students.

NIBCO’s funding also makes sure each Raguet student went home with their very own copy of a book.

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