During the 2018-19 school year, Denver Elementary hosted a morning “Brain Builders” group for fourth and fifth graders who benefited from additional academic support. The group’s facilitators talked about providing the Brain Builders an opportunity to apply the steps in the Engineering Design Process with a real-world experience. They started the EDP process by asking students: “What could Brain Builders design that would improve learning in our school?” After imagining all the possibilities, the children agreed that “little tables” should be made so that students could get away from their desks during collaborative centers and work together on the floor. Their plan originated from their experiences working at a little table in Mrs. Lutz’s STEM lab. They settled on a project that had already been invented by another person, naming their design after the original builder, a retired teacher and administrator, Dr. Robert Hamilton.
With a plan, the Brain Builders club spent a four-month period applying a variety of math, writing, engineering, and technology skills while creating diagrams, taking measurements, and writing instructions for the construction crew. Club members also spoke to adults at various stages of the project and convey important information. Brain Builders analyzed data, filled in data sheets, wrote thank you notes, and assisted the wood shop during the staining process. These students received a priceless, first-hand look at how each individual skill that they practice in school is actually used and necessary for working adults to be able to create something useful or important.
In the spring of 2019, the Brain Builders proudly delivered over a dozen tables to classrooms. Mission accomplished! The Hamilton Table project had given students an authentic, real-world learning experience that deepened their understandings, required the application of knowledge, and increased their levels of curiosity and engagement in a STEM activity.