Do you keep seeing a lot about STEM or STEAM learning? It seems to have become very prevalent lately. It is not something new, not really. There just seems to be more of a push for it. STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (and Art if STEAM – I personally love including art here). When we let our children explore and pursue their interests, STEM learning tends to happen naturally. I love that there are so many more resources available. Even more, that there are many online resources. We have a couple of well-known universities that offer summer camps and other opportunities, but they are often too far for day camp driving or too far out of our budget. With online resources, ecourses such as Thinking Like an Engineer with Innovators Tribe, these things are not too far out of reach for our family.
If your child has even a passing interest in anything engineering related, you need to check into Thinking Like an Engineer. Beyond the obvious exposure to engineering concepts (which I’ll cover further down), your learner will gain critical thinking skills – problem-solving and the ability to think-outside-the-box. These are skills and experiences that are valuable even if she decides not to pursue anything in the engineering field. Through our time so far on this course, my middle learners have seen how many of our homestead projects have utilized this thinking and skills that they are learning about. Engineering is much more than those that design and build bridges, etc.
Not that designing a bridge is not one of the projects – because it is. In addition to hands-on challenges using engineering (some we had completed earlier in the summer as part of the library’s reading program), there are also challenges using some additional software to download. This is not an extra expense. In fact, only some paper, tape, and a level are all that are essential – beyond the computer. The hands-on activities are my son’s favorites. He is currently a 6th grader and completely into creating things with LEGOs, so I’m not surprised. My other learner who is using, our 8th grade daughter, is very interested in architecture (which also happens to be another offering from Innovator’s Tribe). She has really enjoyed utilizing the software for the design projects.
After learning a bit about what engineering is and how long it has been around, my children learned about 3-D design and modeling software. We downloaded software from AutoDesk (the makers of software I used while pursuing Architectural Engineering – in other words, great software). After playing with this for a few lessons, where we are currently, the course takes your learners on a roller coaster. The next units cover roller coasters, bridges, and then nano engineering. I’m really excited to watch those lessons with them.
The ecourse is self-paced, you can technically go in any order you wish, though the first two units should be first in my opinion. To get the most from the course, take your time to fully explore each topic rather than trying to keep a lesson to only a certain number of minutes. Because the course is easy for my children to access and use on their own, I have not been as involved (as I would like — I love engineering). The course software (Thinkific) keeps track of where they are, yet you can repeat or skip ahead to any area you wish. I wish we had more control within the video presentations, pausing works, but we cannot repeat a segment, only the video from the beginning. I am so thrilled that my children are gaining these skills and experiencing engineering in a way that I was not able to until college.
The courses from Innovators Tribe are for 6th-12th graders. There are 30 hours or so of coursework, making up 1/4 of a credit for high school. It works well as applied/physical science. Both of my learners are junior high, so I am tracking their work, but haven’t figured how or if this fits into their high school transcripts. They are getting quite a bit out of it, but I’ll wait until they have completed the ecourse before I decide if any of this will count towards high school credit.