Recently I attended the Orange Center Elementary School to teach a second grade class on construction and engineering. I suspected that walking into a classroom full of seven-year-olds and teaching them basic engineering and construction principles wasn’t going to be easy.
All the fear went away as soon as the class started. They were excited, enthusiastic, and desired to soak up every word I said with the utmost attention. Hands were flying into the air with every question I asked, regardless whether they had any idea what the answer actually was.
When it came time for the activity, I broke them into groups to build the biggest and strongest structures they could only using toothpicks and Styrofoam balls. I was teaching the students about various construction materials, with the Styrofoam being the concrete and the toothpicks being the steel. They learned design principles–a building can’t be very tall if it has no lateral strength. I was capable of relating these principles to basic shapes that they know, such as squares and triangles.
In the end, when I was cleaning up the materials, one student came up and told me that this was so cool, and asked if he could keep his structure to show his parents. In that instant, a stressful day of preparing a lesson plan became one of the most rewarding days I have ever had.
As young as I am, I often forget what being such a young child was like, how enthusiastic I was, with a desire to learn and excel at everything. Volunteering your time to children is something you can’t ever forget.