Engineers Develop, Design, Invent, and Innovate in Their Careers

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SWBAT create a Career Hat, highlighting a variety of engineering careers.

Big Idea

What do you know about engineering careers? Explore the wild world of engineering to create a fun, collaborative career hat.


10 minutes

This lesson is a fun way to get to know the students and introduce them to engineering.I start with a class discussion in an effort to formatively assess background knowledge of  engineering.  My strategy is to Dig Deeper into the lives of my students.  My goal is to zing their memories and give them anticipatory ideas to be discussed later.  I am deliberate in my language as I use words that will come up later in the lesson. Some of the questions I have asked include, "Have you ever heard of a career called engineering?" "What does an engineer do?" "Does anyone know an engineer?" "What do you know about engineering?"

These starters usually generate conversation. A student will respond with something like, "My uncle works at a school as an engineer." That's my cue to probe further to determine the type of engineer. For example,"Does he work inside or outside?" I determine he is responsible for the heating and cooling of a building and he is probably a Mechanical Engineer or a Building Service Engineer.

Sometimes I have to guess. I've had the response, "He works outside." I ask, "Does he work on the grounds or in lawn service?" If the response is yes, I will explain he is probably a Landscape Engineer or an Environmental Engineer. To get the rest of the class involved I'll ask, "Does anyone know a person who works outside on engines like mowers or in gardens?" My strategy is using deliberate questioning techniques to allow the students to share experiences with me. I want students to connect with the activity by offering an engineering career tag that may become useful later in the lesson. After the discussion, I have a good idea of which students have experience with engineering careers. I can start to think about helping the students with no experience.  I explain the entire lesson in the my Engineering Career Hat in a Nutshell


40 minutes

After the conversation about engineers careers, I tell students to bring a hat to school and I will let them wear it in class. (At my school hats are strictly forbidden but I have permission to do this assignment.)  This lesson is a mini-research assignment about engineers.

The eGFI-Engineering-Go-For-It-Magazine is a great resource. I use their Engineer Card (front) and students chose an engineering career. Another great source is Discover Engineering.  One of my strategies is to use multiple internet sources. I've used other career sources including The Bureau of Statistics (which has a heading called Occupation Groups). If your district is interested in a paid-for career education resource, try out Career Cruising.  

The purpose of the assignment is to learn about an engineering career. Students research a career, print off a picture depicting the career, and write a description of the career. The card is taped on the hat and presented to classmates.

To promote research skills, I use a strategy I call Create Your Own Research Questions.  In groups of four students create questions they would like to learn about the engineering career of their choice. When students write the research questions, they take ownership in the learning. I also like that students who know someone in a specific career can learn more about the career. Common research questions include, "How much money do they make?" "What do they do?" "What is an advantage of this career?" "What is a disadvantage of this career?" The purpose of the questions is to gather textual evidence. This mini-research project allows students the opportunity to read a non-fiction text, integrate information, and eventually write a one or two sentence summary based upon a text. 

I present all of the questions to the students and they copy the questions in their Science Notebooks. As they research, students answer the questions. In addition to class questions, I encourage students to come up with their own questions when researching. By allowing students the freedom to answer their own questions, they personalize the research. 

I use a strategy of formative assessment I call, "Correct as I go." I walk around the room with a marker and mark the correct answers with a star. The stars are immediate feedback and motivate the students to keep going. This formative assessment helps me keep an eye on the students who may need additional help.  I publicly react to answers, "Wow! I didn't know that! How interesting!" I might privately explain that the answer is a good start but, "You'll need some better detail if you want a better grade." I make private modifications for students and I offer to look at sources to help students find information. I am modeling how to find useful information as well as determining if their source is a dud. One of my favorite private chats with the students is  about making up their own questions. As I read the sources and the information, I privately say, "Hey that's interesting! Can you make a question from that?" Despite the fact that I explained this, they will look at me and say, "Can I?" "Of course you can!" I answer.



30 minutes

When the research has been completed, students are ready to design Career Hats.  (To see the final project before I explain it, find my Career Hat Slides examples.)  This product is a hat with annotations, or career information, taped and pinned to it. My strategy is to allow my students the opportunity to decide important information necessary to share a career with others. My students have computers so they create a document with the answers to the research questions in first person. This is really important and difficult for many students. The presentations should sound like, "I am an ocean engineer. I make $36,000 a year. I like my job because I get to do research in the ocean and I get to help out ocean creatures. I designed a rover to explore the bottom of the ocean. I'm worried about ocean pollution and would like to find a way to clean up the plastic that gets wrapped around the feet of birds. My job is gross sometimes because I see injured animals."

The higher level thinking task includes analyzing the information to choose important ideas and synthesizing the information to present it in first person. The first person answers will be cut up and taped to the hat. The fun begins as kids decorate the hats.  

When all the hats are decorated I explain how adults may change their careers over the course of their life. I ask students to put on their hats. I present the task: "Find the best engineering career for you!" I give them a clip board and paper. Students move from one engineering career to another determining which career is best for them. This can get messy because they bunch up in groups of friends and lose focus.  I have learned to line the students up in two single file lines facing one another. One side of the lines moves and the other stays put. I give them time and a prompt to let them know when to move.  Not every class ends up in the single file lines so I like to start with the less structured presentation of the hats and move to the lines when there are problems. Typically I know from experience which classes need the structure. 

The Common Core Speaking and Listening standards are addressed in the presentations. My students are expected to engage in a collaborative discussion, prepared with important information.  I offer students sentence starters to promote asking questions and getting new information. Sentence starters include:

  • I like your career because.....
  • That sounds fun because...
  • I would not like that because...
  • How can you make the world a better place?
  • That is very interesting because...
  • Tel me more about....
  • MYOQ: Make Up Your Own Question

During the presentation of the hats, I have my clipboard. I tell them my job is to eavesdrop. I am looking for first person presentations. I am also looking for enthusiastic responses and deliberate questioning. I ask the students what an enthusiastic response may sound like. They have overheard my responses as they were doing the research and they will almost always mimic me. ""Wow! I didn't know that! How interesting!" As I walk around, I listen and give positive feedback. I am listening for first person presentations, questions about the career and enthusiastic responses. As I walk around, I make notes that become the comments on the summative rubric assessment.

The formative assessment work helps makes the summative assessment easy. I have helped or modified the students who needed scaffolding. I have modeled more difficult activities such as original questions. I have listened to presentations and assessed listening skills, and I have had the chance to assess the content understanding taped to the hat during the presentations. 

Wrap Up

30 minutes

The lesson ends with a Career Hat Checklist assessment and a reflection. My assessment strategy is a rubric checklist that assesses the answers to the questions, the presentations of the product, and a bibliography.  I intend to to integrate research skills every time we do research.

My students are allowed to use EasyBib to record research citations. If there is one source, they learn to have a reference in MLA format. I use this as a method of tying to the Common Core Standards. 

Before the presentations, I ask the students to help me with the rubric. My strategy is Student Generated Rubrics. My intention is to allow them the opportunity to set learning goals. I ask, "What should I be looking for in your presentations to one another?" I make sure to remind them about the first person presentation. Typically the students will say something about using the facts from the research. I add, "What about the person being presented to?" They will respond with, "There has to be questions and enthusiastic remarks." Sometimes I suggest other rubric conditions and I use their ideas to make the rubric. My strategy is to train students to think about criteria as it applies to proof of learning. In addition, by using the the checklist I help students to consider time management, the work load, and I encourage goal-setting.

If you look at the Career Hat Checklist, you'll notice some Common Core areas in parentheses.  I have been inspired by a Common Core 8th Grade Informative Writing Rubric designed by the Elk Grove, California school district because I like the tags to standards. I try to remember to use these tags on my rubrics because it helps me remember the Common Core Standards and it offers a link to our Language Arts classes for my students. 

My final assessment is a student reflection. I like to use a hearty discussion for the reflection of the Career Hats because I am interested in learning about student choices and I want them to listen and respond to one another's choices so I use a Think Pair Share with a thinking template from the Literacy Design Collaborative. Here is what the template looks like: 

Think: Students write their responses to the following questions: The career I was most interested in was ______________________ because _______________. The career least interesting to me was _________________ because _______________.  Describe how one career can help make the world a better place. 

Pair: Share the answers to the questions above with your partner/table.

Share:  Respond to the following questions on a 12 x 24white board.

What career choices did you choose? Were there any two or more students with the same choices? Why would engineering be a good career choice? Why would you not want to be an engineer? What was the most interesting thing you learned? My strategy is to allow the students to talk about themselves and make connections to the content. 

These probes give students an opportunity to share and compare their responses. My strategy has multiple outcomes. Students are allowed to express themselves, they must listen to how their choices compare against their friends, and oftentimes the discussion leads to intriguing information about the content. I probe further with questions directed to the whole class such as, "Raise your hand if you thought that career would be fun. Who would hate that career, why?" It is interesting to me to learn about their choices and they like to tell me about themselves.