Elementary School Teachers Try Engineering To Integrate Math, Science In Classrooms

Published: July 11, 2001

Elementary school teachers looking for ways to integrate math and science concepts in their classrooms will build pencil rockets and experiment with slingshot-propelled cars at a workshop sponsored by CU-Boulder's Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory July 16 through July 19.

The "Kinetics for Kids" workshop introduces engineering to kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers from around Colorado through fun, hands-on activities that teachers can use in their own classrooms with a minimum of expense.

"One of the things teachers need and want for their classes is the application of more math and science, and engineering integrates those concepts in a real-world context," said Jackie Sullivan, co-director of the ITL Laboratory and Program.

Workshop activities will focus on the theory and mathematics of motion-phenomena that are seen everyday in real life and are the basis of many engineering disciplines.

For example, Newton's Second Law (force equals mass times acceleration) will be demonstrated using wooden cars that are propelled by a slingshot made with rubber bands and string. Teachers also will build rockets that can launch a pencil 75 feet in the air to demonstrate Newton's Third Law, that for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction.

Sixteen teachers from Montrose, Grand Junction and Boulder Valley schools are slated to participate in the four-day workshop led by mechanical engineering professor Jean Hertzberg.

The kinetics workshop has been offered previously to middle-school students and teachers, but this is the first year it has been targeted toward elementary school teachers.

"The kinetics workshop has been a hit with middle-school teachers, but we found that the background of elementary school teachers is so different that it warrants a different workshop," said Janet deGrazia, ITL outreach director.

Reaching students early enough to nurture their interest in math, science, engineering and technology, and encouraging them to continue studying these subjects, is a central goal of the ITL's K-12 outreach program.

The program, which offers a variety of hands-on classes for K-12 students and teachers, is supported by grants from several public and private sources. They include the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy - Rocky Flats, IBM Corp., Xcel Energy Foundation, the Colorado Institute of Technology, the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau and the CU-Boulder Outreach Committee.

For more information on ITL outreach programs, call (303) 492-5230 or visit http://itll.colorado.edu