First-graders test engineering skills

Students design a ‘trunk’ for elephant

First-grade students in Marvina Bugajski’s class at Gause Elementary participated in an engineering lesson that tied together reading, science and math.

The lesson started as the class read a series of books about animals who have faced challenges. One of the books, by Mo Willems from the popular Elephant and Piggie series, was about an elephant who lost his trunk. To bring science and math to the lesson, Bugajski asked students to work in groups to make a prosthetic trunk for an elephant. By using the scientific process to measure and do math, students formulated a plan to solve the problem. They then used a variety of materials and a lot of teamwork to create the trunks.

Bugajski got the idea from a summer workshop she attended, and created the lesson, which also meets the new science standards.

“We read a book about a penguin who lost its feathers and a zookeeper who made a suit to keep him warm,” she recalled. “And one about a goose who lost a leg and another about a hawk who was shot with an arrow. They were very inspired.”

Students enjoyed the measuring, cutting and calculating to create their final project.

“They’re having so much fun they don’t realize they are actually doing a science project,” Bugajski said.