Hands-On Engineering: Real-World Projects

Hands-On Engineering: Real-World Projects for the Classroom (Grades 4-7)
By Beth L. Andrews
(Prufrock Press, 2012 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Gail Morris

Hands-On Engineering is a very well written book that allows the reader/user to integrate various activities into their current classroom curriculum.

The book opens with a detailed overview about Design and Engineering, including some common design processes that students can explore. After that, the book discusses how the “challenges” it offers are meant to align with the various standards associated with STEM. The final part of the introduction covers how to use the challenges in the classroom, the materials needed, and what type of preparation is necessary for completing the challenges successfully.

The book also comes with an additional downloadable document in PDF format to be used with each of the challenges, detailing preparation resources, reading resources and additional lesson resources for your students.

The author has also added a very nicely prepared Materials Collection Request letter that can be reproduced and sent out to parents and guardians of your students. The letter details the purpose of the project and a list of the materials needed. Parents can tear off the bottom portion of the letter and designate what they are able to send in with their child. This is a great feature, especially because a great majority of the items needed for these projects are items that might normally be put into the recycling bin at home.

The heart of the book

For an educator like myself, it’s often hard to find applicable activities for students to complete that won’t utilize a lot of classroom time or resources. These are the types of activities that I like to use when integrating STEM into my business curriculum, especially when I teach my career planning unit.

This book contains 26 different challenges or activities (you can peruse the TOC and a sample activity here). Some of the challenges include designing paper airplanes, creating hammocks and bridges, and designing cars using CD’s. All of the challenges are sure to ignite the curiosity in our young learners.

Each challenge is detailed in a way that makes it very easy for the educator as well as the students. Challenges start out with a Teacher’s Guide which outlines the following:

  • Subjects and Skills
  • Materials
  • Vocabulary
  • Purpose
  • Objectives
  • Activity Preparation
  • Activity Procedure

Plentiful activity sheets

After the Teacher’s Guide, you then have your student activity sheets. Just as descriptive as the Teacher’s Guide, the student activity sheets are very well laid out. These sheets include both individual activity information and team activity information, if you decide to use teams. These sheets also include information about goals, materials needed, and how much time may be needed to complete the challenge. There are also diagrams on the sheets so students can see the step-by-step process to complete the challenge.

At the end of each student activity sheet, there is always an “Extend the Learning” exercise. Educators may choose to use the activities or not. As I look through them, I would use them as extra credit as well as reinforcement for students who may be struggling with some of the concepts presented.

After all of the challenges have been presented, there is a nice paragraph about the author. It’s not too overwhelming with a lot of accolades and such, but very brief and detailed. Reading about her makes you feel comfortable about using her materials because of her experience.

Easy-to-access standards

The final section of the book presents a nice table on standards. The table is broken down by grade levels 4 through 8 and middle school and then by Common Core state Standards in Mathematics and/or Next Generation Science Standards. This is a nice reference when preparing your lesson plans for any STEAM activity you may be teaching.

Overall, I really enjoyed reviewing this book. Everything was laid out just the way I prefer it. The companion PDF document was a wonderful bonus to an already activity-packed book. It will certainly be my go-to resource this year as I integrate more STEM/STEAM activities into my business curriculum.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature shows some of the features mentioned in Gail Morris’ review.]

Gail Morris is a middle school Business Education/Computer Technology instructor with 18 years of classroom experience. She teaches in Newark, Delaware. The past several years she has spearheaded the move to integrate more STEAM curriculum into the business education curriculum. She is an Everfi Certified Financial Literacy Educator and an Everfi Certified STEM Educator.

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