Those Darn Squirrels!--Using the Engineering Process

28 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


The SWBAT work as a collaborative team to create a solution to a problem.

Big Idea

Working as a team, we can solve a problem!

Teacher Notes

Activity Description:

This is the second part of a 2 part activity.  In a previous lesson, the book “Those Darn Squirrels!” was read.   The children tried to solve the main character’s problem by using the first steps of the engineering design process.  Then they brainstormed ideas and then chose their best one. 

In this lesson, the class will work in teams to find the best idea from all of their ideas.  Expectations for working in a group will be discussed.  As an assessment, the children rate themselves as an engineer.  

NGSS Connections

The students will be participating in collaborative conversations with their peers to decide on a common idea for their bird feeder design. Together, the group will develop a simple sketch to illustrate how the bird feeder will function.  They are going to have to analyze each person's ideas that solve the same problem of deterring the squirrels and look at the strengths and weaknesses of all of the designs to be able to chose the best one or the combination of designs.

Material List

book Those Darn Squirrels By Adam Rubin
Engineering Design Choose--ready to pull up on the Smartboard
Engineering Design Develop--ready to pull up on the Smartboard
How Well Did I Work as an Engineer? Self-Assessment--1 copy per student plus you should have it ready to pull up on the Smartboard


5 minutes

I begin the lesson by having the children come to the corner.  I write the word TEAMWORK on the board.  I want to relate what we are about to do with something that the children have had experience with.  This will help to activate their schema and make them be more open to the new ideas we will be working on.

If you have ever been on a team raise your hand.  Immediately the majority of hands shoot up. What kind of teams have you been on?  John answers that he is on a soccer team.  Other children tell me they are on teams such as basketball, football, cheerleading, and baseball.

Well today we are going to be working in teams, just like you have done before. Sounds like you have lots of experience being on teams.  Johnny, you said you were on the soccer team, right?  So I have a question for you.  Let's say you score a goal.  Do you get the point or does your team get the point?

He answers, The team!

Why don't you just get the point?

Because we are playing as a team.  We all worked to get that goal.

I reply, that's right.  Teams work together to accomplish things.  Today you are going to get a chance to work on a team, just like engineers and scientists sometimes do.  We are going to work together to come up with one main design for a squirrel proof feeder.  




20 minutes
In advance, I look over my class list and group the children into groups of three.  I try to make sure each group has at least one child whom is articulate and one who is a more reluctant speaker.  This kind of builds in a role model who can help teach the concept of speaking fluently to share an idea.  I feel the students definitely learn best from listening to each other.  Of course, I also try to find groups of children that I think will work well together.  I tell the children of whom each group is comprised.  They are going to be a team together to complete only ONE paper.
Today we are going to work in your teams of 3.  You will need to work with your team to figure out what the ONE best idea of your group is or you may combine several ideas. In our engineering process this would be the "Choosing Our Best Idea" stage.

I pull up the Engineering Design--Choose on the Smartboard.

In order to choose the group's best idea, you will each need to explain your best idea to your group telling the main parts of it. You will have to listen carefully to other people's ideas and treat them with respect.

So let's say I was working in a group.  When it was my turn, I would share the main points of my idea to explain my design.  We would go around the table and everyone would get to do the same thing.  We would all listen to the all of the ideas.  When everyone has had a turn, we will need to think about how each of them would work and which one would work the best.  We can choose just one idea as the best, or we can take parts of some of the ideas and put them together to make one idea.
Remember our rules for respect!  What are some of the things we do to show we are listening to others?  

We review these behaviors often, since my class really needs frequent reminders.  Here's the list that we came up with today:

  • We look at the person who is talking. 
  • We turn our bodies toward them.  
  • We don't talk, just listen.  
  • We listen and sometimes nod our heads.  
  • We can sit in a hook-up.
  • We are respectful.

Wow!  Sounds like you all know how to be great listeners.  When engineers are sharing their ideas they have to be great listeners so they understand everyone's ideas.  I have a new checklist for us to look at.  We are going to go over the checklist before we work so you can see what sort of behaviors I will be looking for when you are working in your group. After we are done, YOU will be filling out a self-assessment about your behaviors.

I open a copy of the self-assessment sheet and show it to them on the Smartboard (see resource titled How Well Did I Work as an Engineer? Self-Assessment). We go over the assessment together discussing each of the behavioral topics on the assessment.
Since your group is coming up with ONE idea together, you will also need to COMPROMISE.  When we compromise we take parts of everybody's ideas to make just ONE idea.  Or if your group would like, you can just choose the idea that you think will work the best. You need to keep an open mind for this task and listen to others.  

 We again quickly review what they should be trying to accomplish and what behaviors they should exhibit because you can never stress these behaviors enough!  

I give them about 10 minutes to each discuss their ideas with their group.  I walk around talking to each group and checking to see if they have stayed on task.  I am also looking for if they are showing appropriate behaviors such as any of the items mentioned on the self-assessment.  I try to nurture their social growth by making them cognizant of their great social behaviors.  To take a peek into how it works, watch being a good listener video clip of a team of children each sharing their ideas. I love how the boy at the end combined all of their ideas into one idea!  This showed phenomenal growth in his communication skills and confidence.



10 minutes
I pull up Engineering Design Develop card on the Smartboard.
It looks like every team has chosen one idea to work with.  So we are going to take the next step in the engineering design process.  We are going to work as a group to develop your team's idea.  I am going to give your team one paper called Those Darn Squirrels! Best Idea workpage. Remember, you will work together on that ONE paper to develop your design.

Then your group will develop your idea by drawing a diagram of it.  
Who remembers what a diagram is from when we studied it in reading class?  Good, it is a sketch of your idea with each of the parts labeled.
I pull up a sample diagram and go over the main parts for a super quick refresher. Drawing diagrams is one of the objectives of this lesson.  In the previous lesson they got to draw their own, now they must work as a team to draw one together as a team.

You will have to chose one person to be in charge of drawing the diagram. You can decide by yourself how you are going to chose that person. Even though one person is drawing, the other people should be working with them and guiding them. Remember that we are only doing sketches, so you should not be coloring your pictures.

Then you will also need to figure out what materials you would need to build your design.  Unfortunately, we are not going to be building with this project, but we will be designing and building many other things this year.  But for right now, this is just a practice.  Your team should pick a different person to write down the materials that you will need to build it but everyone should still contribute their ideas.

I don't tell the children how the are to chose the person to draw the diagram or record the material list.  I think it is part of the process to be able to figure that out for themselves, since this is the way it really happens in their life.  I want them to be able to take this skill and apply in other situations. 
I saw some wonderful things that showed that the children were really getting the idea of working together as a team.  An example of this is a boy learning what compromising is all about. He really, really wanted to be the person who drew the team's diagram.  He even had the group vote and when he didn't win, so he had them vote again.  Then notice how he reluctantly, but respectfully handed the paper to the other girl.  I was very impressed with this social growth he displayed.
Then take a look at another group displaying good teamwork.  They all worked together, agreed on their design and were working like a well-oiled machine. In this video clip watch how the girl nods her head and they all listen respectfully to each other.  The group was able to combine their ideas into one idea.
After each team has completed the task, I have each team pick a spokesperson.  I have a spokesperson share their idea.  We take turns until all teams have shared.




10 minutes

I have the children fill out a self-assessment of how they worked as an engineer (see resource used in previous step titled How Well Did I work as an Engineer? Self Assessment).  Click for a Student Sample of a student who filled out a self-assessment.  I found the children rated themselves pretty accurately.  The main area that I found the children needed to work on was asking questions of the speaker.  Most of them forgot to do it.  I told them that was fine, we are just learning how to be good listeners and they should try to remember for next time.

I make a T-chart on the board and label it “Effective Behaviors” and “Ineffective Behaviors.” We discuss what type of behaviors were effective, such as listening to the speaker, being respectful and giving a sincere compliment, etc.  We also discuss any problems that have occurred, such as children not being open to other people’s ideas, talking when someone is sharing or not compromising. 

I ask the children, “How could YOU have been more effective in your group?” 

I have them flip their self-assessment over and write their answer on the back.

Note:  I purposefully did not put this question on the front of the sheet since kids try to fill it in before our discussion.

Then we review what we have learned in this lesson.  Engineers, help solve real problems.  Sometimes they must work in groups to do this.  They must be respectful to each other to get the job done.