Midtown Raleigh News

Raleigh’s Brentwood Elementary students become engineers

Brentwood Elementary School kindergartners Keon Baltimore, Allen Christensen and Maya Arenzo watch to see if their homemade boat holding rubber duckies can stay afloat as teacher Carrie Sharp, center, counts down and teacher Rachel Carter adds waves to the pool.
Brentwood Elementary School kindergartners Keon Baltimore, Allen Christensen and Maya Arenzo watch to see if their homemade boat holding rubber duckies can stay afloat as teacher Carrie Sharp, center, counts down and teacher Rachel Carter adds waves to the pool. sbarr@newsobserver.com

Brentwood Elementary School students put their best ideas to the test in a series of engineering demonstrations.

On Wednesday, kindergartners at the magnet school showed off boats made of egg cartons, shoe boxes and milk jugs, then watched to see if their creations could carry rubber duck passengers without taking on water or sinking.

Fourth-graders demonstrated the circuits they had built for lighthouses and tested whether their light shone brightly enough.

Teams of fifth-graders launched ping-pong balls from catapults to see if they could strike down a pyramid made of plastic cups.

The demonstrations were part of the school’s engineering week, and each grade followed the steps of ask, imagine, plan, create and improve.

Students whose rubber duckies had to swim to safety or whose catapult never flung a ball farther than a few feet have the chance to think through how to make an even better contraption.

Fifth-grader Sydney Powell, 11, said she likes working on projects like this.

“It challenges our brains to problem-solve and troubleshoot,” she said. “And we work together.”

Emily Hardee, Brentwood’s coordinator for STEM programs, said students work on similar projects throughout the year with a long-term, intensive project each quarter. STEM focuses on science, technology, engineering and math.

During engineering week, teachers find ways to bring other subjects into the lessons. Kindergartners counted out loud how long the boats stayed afloat to practice their numbers. The fourth-graders focused on lighthouses because their social studies curriculum deals with North Carolina history.

Hardee said the projects help the students work on troubleshooting, not getting everything correct the first time.

“They’re not just reading it or even seeing it,” she said. “They’re trying out their ideas, and then they have the chance to improve.”

Barr: 919-836-4952;

Twitter: @barrmsarah

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