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Learning Toy Company Click-A-Brick Hails Novel Engineering STEM Initiative

Teaching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills using the literature that children read in the classroom is a brilliant way to combine lessons and use already familiar subjects to teach students new skills, says the team at learning toy company Click-A-Brick.

As recently reported by Slate, the initiative, called Novel Engineering, asks students to identify problems they find in books they read for school that can be solved with engineering. In an example given in the Slate article, third grade students are tasked with protecting a turtle’s home from a mischievous black lab named Tornado from the novel of the same name by Betsy Byars.

Developed by researchers at Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach and backed by the National Science Foundation, the goal of Novel Engineering is to bolster students’ reading comprehension via hands-on projects while simultaneously teaching them the engineering process and linking that process to the real-world problems it helps to fix.

“As part of Novel Engineering, students develop projects based on texts they read in English Language Arts or other content classes, such as history,” the Novel Engineering website says. “The characters become their clients and students pull from the text to scope problems and set constraints as they engage in engineering design.”

The approach to teaching not only STEM, but literacy, has received the thumbs up from Click-A-Brick Co-Founders Jason Smith and Georg de Gorostiza, who recommend using the company’s learning toy to teach children.

“This is a great way to get kids interested in STEM and thinking about its real world applications,” Smith said. “They get to help solve problems faced by characters in these great books they’re reading, which are going to make the projects that much more fun for them. Using the characters from books helps kids identify with those characters more and makes the projects they do afterward more personal because it feels like they’re solving a problem for someone rather than just doing the projects for the sake of solving a made-up problem.”

Combining literature with learning STEM skills is something Click-A-Brick has recommended in the past. In particular, finding books about animals and using the Click-A-Brick Animal Kingdom set to build those animals is an activity the company has featured on its site that could potentially help parents foster a love of reading in their children while simultaneously teaching them engineering skills as they build the animals from Click-A-Brick. Another activity involving combining literature and STEM skills that Click-A-Brick has recommended is reading about birds and using the Feather Friends set to build those birds.