Small Bridge Engineers


In this Scientix blogpost, Derya Yukva, a preschool teacher in Turkey, presents the “Small Bridge Engineers” activity. The project was conducted for four days with sixteen, five-year-old students. The aim was to develop among students a positive attitude and behaviour towards nature. To do so, students were challenged to ask questions and offer solutions at all stages of the learning process.

Pictures provided by the author (Attribution CC-By)

The aims of the project were twofold. First, I wanted my students to train in the following skills: problem-solving, imagination, planification, drawing and communication of the final product. Second, but not less important, another goal was to instill awareness of the importance of loving,  protecting, and helping animals; to teach respect and kindness to all living creatures in nature.

Before we started our activity, we watched a movie. In the movie we watched, the bridge that the animals wanted to cross was collapsing. I stopped the movie and asked the children why the bridge was used, why was it important for the animals, etc.

As we continued the film, we observed that the animals could not cross without a bridge and were separated from their families, and that they had to cross to the other side to find food. Afterwards, the children were asked whether the collapse of the bridge was a problem and what we could do if we were there.

Some of the answers my students replied were:

“We can build a bridge!”

“Let’s make a wooden bridge!”

“If it’s too long, let’s support it so it doesn’t collapse.”

“A bridge that can carry all animals!”

I got a wide range of answers, which proved that my students understood the problem situation very well. A bridge is a road that connects two paths through which living things and things can pass. And if it does not hold, people cannot get to the other side. This is what my students understood.

We thought about the question of why the destroyed bridge might have collapsed reaching diverse conclusions, for example: the bridge was made of light materials and it could not bear the excess weight; if water is running under the bridge, it might have been destroyed because of the water; the materials used to build it were old.

Then, we started talking about the new bridge we will build:  What material should we use? What should we do to prevent the water from breaking down? What should we put under it to support it? We discussed the questions in groups.

As a result of the exchange of ideas, I asked my students to draw the products they were considering.

Picture provided by the author (Attribution CC-By)

I gave to the students some leftover materials in our class, and I asked them to create the products they drew.

With the supplied materials, they designed many bridges and more advanced products to be used as bridges. Some of my students created support legs by making bridges with stairs; some others thought about the creatures that cannot walk and built a bridge with elevators; some groups came up with the idea that if we increase the wooden blocks, we will prevent collapse.

Pictures provided by the author (Attribution CC-By)

Our activity is based on STEM’s 5E Model for Integrated STEM Instruction, in which problem-solving consists of five steps:1. Identifying the problem2. Creating a solution3. Activity4. Design5. Evaluation  A STEM corner was prepared for this project in our classroom and we made our presentations in that corner.

In addition, students learned about environmental engineering and civil engineering.

Learning about this, even with preschool students, was a great success – although the things they made were not real products. Because the imagination of preschool children is very developed, you can use a piece of cardboard for different purposes without needing too many materials. From toilet paper rolls to elevators and cameras, all products that an adult cannot think of, can be turned into completely different products by children.

Thanks to this project, I saw how my students would react when faced with a problem situation, and that they were able to overcome it.

I have seen that they can successfully draw what is described and that they can create the products drawn with residual materials. In particular, during the engineering development phase of STEM, I saw that each of my students had very different perspectives.

Lastly, and with regards to the evaluation, I asked questions to my students at every stage of the project – as part of the scientific learning process. The assessment enabled children to participate in activities with pleasure and to understand the value animals add to human life and nature.

We successfully achieved the result we wanted and ended our project with our presentations.


About the author:

Derya Yukva has a bachelor’s degree in Preschool Education. She works as a preschool teacher in Afyon, Turkey. She makes STEM applications in her daily lessons and has also participated in different STEM projects in Afyon.

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