NACOGDOCHES, Texas — In a science-fair-like atmosphere, students at Raguet Elementary School select objects from among an array of recycled materials to bring their own inventions to life during Novel Engineering, a collaborative event.
In an effort to focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related projects, Stephen F. Austin State University, Raguet Elementary School and Nibco, an industrial and residential manufacturing company, partnered to bring Novel Engineering to Nacogdoches.
Through a combination of literature and engineering, students use “literature as the basis for engineering design challenges that help them identify problems, design realistic solutions and engage in the engineering design process while reinforcing their literacy skills,” according to novelengineering.org.
From the Department of Elementary Education, Drs. Lauren Burrow, associate professor, and Mark Montgomery, assistant professor, helped facilitate the project along with Dr. Chrissy Cross, assistant professor of secondary education and educational leadership.
“Novel Engineering was something I happened upon with my daughter — she loves science and building,” Burrow said. “Literacy is my expertise area — science is not. Novel Engineering combines the best of both of these.”
During the summer, Burrow, Montgomery and Cross hosted professional development workshops with Raguet kindergarten through fifth grade teachers to prepare for the project.
Through Novel Engineering, students in each grade level work with a selected book to read and practice problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Then, students create an invention based on the book, which they build during the final day of the project.
As part of their field experience courses, SFA students served as project mentors as the children created their projects. Burrow said the experience helped SFA students practice skills they would use in the classroom.
“Engaging with the elementary students was a great way for our university students to practice their own critical-thinking and explore different teaching methods,” Burrow said.
Books were selected based on student interest and reading level. A bilingual book, “Maria had a little llama/Maria Tenía Una Llamita,” by Angela Dominguez, was selected for kindergarten and first grade; “Caps for Sale,” by Esphyr Slobodkina, was used for second and third grade; and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” by Judi and Ronald Barrett, was chosen for fourth and fifth grade. Through a Nibco grant, Raguet Elementary School was able to purchase a book for every student, as well as materials for building their inventions. SFA students served as judges for the best inventions, and prizes were awarded to the winning students.