Lesson: Keep Spreading the News

Contributed by: Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

A stack of black and white newspapers.
Newspapers are one means of communication
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Summary

In this lesson, students develop an understanding of the critical role communication plays in an engineer's life. Students create products to communicate their learning about the engineering role in the environment.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Engineers document their evolving design work in the form of sketches, drawings, prototypes and test results, as part of the scientific process. Dated proof of their ideas may also help them acquire a patent —ownership of a product, preventing anyone else from stealing or copying the product.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Understand and explain why engineers create products to communicate their ideas.
  • Know that engineers must document their evolving design work as part of the scientific process.

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Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment. (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Introduction/Motivation

Just like we have to write reports in school, engineers often have to write reports on what they have learned and developed. These can be for their supervisor or boss, a company or contractor, a community, or the world at large. However, engineers often engage in other types of communication activities to get their work out to interested people. They write articles for newspapers and magazines, books (both fiction and non-fiction), and proposals; they create artwork and perform plays; they visit schools; they present at seminars/workshops, any many more. Often, these types of activities happen at the end of a project, but many times they are also a part of the process of engineering. For example, engineers may have to write reports for their supervisor/boss or someone that has hired them to provide details on their progress as they complete a project.

Engineers also need to make sure they are writing down or drawing what they are doing in order to get credit for their ideas. Sometimes, they can apply for a patent, which is a document that shows ownership of a product so no one else can copy it. This has a lot to do with who can benefit financially from the development of a product. Would you like to be the first person to design a new space scooter and have someone steal your idea and make all the money off it? Probably not! Engineers can get patents for their designs if they are the first one to develop it. It is important for engineers to have their process for design or drawings complete and dated so they can prove they are the owner.

One of the critical components of all engineering is good communication. Engineers need to be able to explain their work to someone who is not an engineer. Often, that person is someone who wants them to do the work for them, but is not an engineer themselves. Sometimes that communication can be very hard. Why else do you think communication might be important to engineers? (Answer: Without good communication or documentation — that is, writing stuff down clearly, engineers' great discoveries, designs, improvements, ideas, etc. would never get noticed or applied.) What are ways that engineers can communicate with others? (Answer: Reports for bosses, write articles for newspapers and magazines, they write books (both fiction and non-fiction), they write proposals, they create artwork, they perform plays, they visit schools, they present at seminars/workshops, etc.)

Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers

This lesson is a summary lesson for the environmental unit. The intention of the activity is to engage students in critical and creative thinking about environmental issues and how to communicate their ideas clearly.

Associated Activities

  • Write On! - Students create a book, newspaper or other published work to communicate what they have learned about engineers' role in the environment.

Lesson Closure

Review the list of ways engineers can communicate with others. (Answer: Reports for bosses, write articles for newspapers and magazines, they write books (both fiction and non-fiction), they write proposals, they create artwork, they perform plays, they visit schools, they present at seminars/workshops, etc.) Discuss with students their creations or reports. What audience did they develop their products for? Was it for a boss, a community, a contractor, a school group or the world? What type of engineers did they imagine they were when creating their product? What have they learned about the engineers' role in the environment?

Have students share the published work with an audience of some type (the class, a buddy class, the school, the parent-teacher organization, etc.)

Assessment

Pre-Lesson Assessment

Discussion Question: Why is communication important for engineers? (Answer: Without this piece, engineers' great discoveries, designs, improvements, ideas, etc. would never get noticed or applied.)

Post-Introduction Assessment

Brainstorming: Brainstorm avenues of communication for engineers. (Possible Answers: Reports for bosses, write articles for newspapers and magazines, they write books (both fiction and non-fiction), they write proposals, they create artwork, they perform plays, they visit schools, they present at seminars/workshops, etc.)

Lesson Summary Assessment

Engineering Products: Discuss with students their products or reports. What audience did they develop their products for? Was it for a boss, a community, a contractor, a school group or the world? What type of engineers did they imagine they were when creating their product? What have they learned about the engineers' role in the environment?

Poetry Writing: Share an environmental poem with the students. One example is the poem, "Antarctica" by Carole Forman (found in Earth Prayers From Around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations For Honoring The Earth, edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon, Harper San Francisco, 1991). Next, have students write a poem about the environment. Collect and display the poems.

Lesson Extension Activities

Invite an engineer/environmentalist to share something s/he has published.

Find articles that engineers have published and read them to the students.

Show drawings/journals of Leonardo DaVinci's inventions.

Learn more about patents and the patent process at the United States Patent and Trademark Office: http://www.uspto.gov/go/kids/.

References

Forman, Carole. "Antarctica," Earth Prayers From Around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations For Honoring The Earth, edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon, San Francisco: Harper Books, 1991.

United States Patent and Trademark Office: http://www.uspto.gov/go/kids/

Contributors

Amy Kolenbrander; Jessica Todd; Malinda Schaefer Zarske; Janet Yowell

Copyright

© 2005 by Regents of the University of Colorado.

Supporting Program

Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

Acknowledgements

The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no. 0338326. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: July 31, 2017

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