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Engineering in preschool: What little minds can teach us about big skills


The natural curiosity of young children, makes the preschool period an important time for introducing and reinforcing engineering practices. Engineering here is defined as goal-oriented thinking that addresses problems and decisions within constraints by drawing on available resources. Engineering encompasses hands-on activity, inquiry, teamwork, and other instructional practices that develop children’s critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. However, exposure to engineering in early childhood education is mostly incidental, rather than exclusively through engineering. Further, while there is an emerging body of literature on engineering curricula and activities in early childhood, little information is provided about what preschool engineering looks like, as well as reflections from such implementation. The purpose of this study was to implement engineering challenges in a preschool classroom framed in an inquiry-based teaching approach, and to document teacher reflections and lessons learned. The study was conducted in a private preschool program for students aged 3–5, including children with or at-risk for developmental delays. Thirteen preschool students and one preschool teacher participated in this study, wherein, four engineering activities were implemented in the classroom over a four-week period. The teacher’s reflections reveal the importance of engineering activities in providing a platform for preschool students with diverse needs to work together, practice skills from a multitude of domains, and engage in authentic peer interactions. Implications for early childhood educators seeking to incorporate engineering experiences in their classroom are shared. Recommendations for practice including how preschool students can meaningfully participate in similar inquiry-driven activities as well as the teacher’s role in supporting their participation is discussed. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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