How old do you think a student has to be before they can start studying engineering?
This week's Innovative Educator believes second grade is a good time to start, and his young scientists believe it, too.
On the day KTVB visited, Russ Redmon was putting a new twist on an old favorite in his second-grade class at Jefferson Elementary in Boise.
"Instead of the old egg drop idea that a lot of people have used, we put it on a zipline," Redmon said. "The idea is to build some type of carrier that will keep the egg from breaking."
Second graders Alma Goochey and Hudson Busick are partners in this egg-protector prototype building project.
They watch as Redmon releases their carrier made of popsicle sticks, straws, paper clips and tape. It flies down the zipline and smacks against the wall where the far end of the line is attached.
"This is the fake egg," Busick says.
They'll try their carrier with a real egg later on.
"I don't want it to mush up and break," Busick says.
It's engineering in the second grade. Besides the simple supplies used to build their egg carriers, the kids also use IPads as notebooks and to take pictures and video.
"It's actually pretty amazing how independent and capable they are, especially with technology," Redmon said."
And then there are the little white lab coats the students wear during science lessons. The coats are cute, but are actually an important part of the lesson, too.
"I think it ups the level just a little bit and they take it a little more seriously," Redmon said. "They try just a little bit harder with it."
Redmon said he once saw a billboard with kids wearing lab coats, and thought that would be a good idea for his class. A donor paid for them.
"It's kind of interesting. You can see them almost transform when they put on their lab coats," Redmon said.
"I think it's fun. I think it makes me feel like a scientist sometimes," Alma Goochey said.
And that's the whole point.
In another part of the engineering unit, the young scientists use 3-D software to prompt a 3-D printer to create a 3-D robot.
"He knows a lot of technology," Hudson Busick says of Mr. Redmon. "And I just want to be like that, too, because I want to be an architect."
Redmon treats them and talks to them with respect.
"I think if you treat them like they're capable they really surprise you," Redmon said. "They really kind of step up."
His philosophy and style are sinking in with his students.
"I think I want to be a second-grade teacher," Goochey said.
"I think second grade is a really fun age," Redmon said. "First grade they're just kind of learning how to be in school, learning how to be students, but by second you can kind of see them, especially towards the end, how much they grow up and kind of becoming a person at that point."
A person who may ultimately grow up to be a scientist or a second-grade teacher.
"I go home tired, but feeling good about it, yes," Redmon said.
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