What May Feel like the End is Often a New Beginning

May 04, 2017
Teacher and students taking a selfie
K. Blanden

For the past 6 weeks, the fifth grade students enrolled in the Martin Luther King Elementary after school program participated in the WILL-TV Design Squad Global program. The program ends this week but I am confident that it is a new beginning for many of the King students.

Each week the students were introduced to hands-on engineering and invention activities and the design process. The weekly challenges built on each other as the club progressed over the six weeks. To enhance the student experience, the King students were paired with two other Design Squad Clubs from Asuncion, Paraguay and Johannesburg, South Africa. The students completed interviews and shared videos and information about their school and community. Along with that, they exchanged pictures and videos of the engineering activities they completed each week. This Friday is our last session and we will celebrate our success and achievements with our partner clubs.

When the students began the program, they had limited knowledge about the design process or engineering.  Throughout the weeks, they learned about some different fields of engineering from the  Illinois Edition of PBS LearningMedia.  We learned about mechanical engineering, environmental engineering, electrical engineering, graphic engineering, civil engineering, and robotics engineering. The students utilized the design process as they completed the weekly challenges. These challenges were a lot of fun and made the students think about ways they could improve their designs or achieve each task more efficiently. They became little engineers right in their own classroom!

When the students began this program, they had limited exposure to students from around the world.  A lot of their perceptions and thoughts were derived from what the media portrays. As we interacted and learned more about our partner clubs, they began to realize that those students were very similar to themselves.  They found that they dressed alike, listened to some of the same music, and liked to have fun with their friends- just as the King school students did! This was an eye-opening experience for many of them and fostered a global understanding of people from other places. This is one of the reasons why the global connection of Design Squad Global is so important.

While the program may have ended, the students have learned and grown so much. What may feel like the end- is what I hope to be a beginning interest in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) fields and a broader understanding of the world around us. I look forward to WILL-TV bringing Design Squad Global to more schools and programs in our area.