Academic journal article Science and Children

The Stealth Profession

Academic journal article Science and Children

The Stealth Profession

Article excerpt

Engineering is sometimes referred to as the "stealth" profession because, although we use thousands of de-signed objects each day, we seldom think about the engineering practices involved in the creation and production of these objects. This month's lessons give students not only an awareness of the work of engineers but also the opportunity to think like engineers.

This Month's Trade Books

The Handiest Things in the World

By Andrew Clements

Photographs by Raquel Jaramillo

Candlewick. 2010.

ISBN 9781416961666

Grades K-2


Simple rhyme and vivid photographs portray some of the everyday things we use to make life easier, including a dog leash, calculator, watering can, and umbrella. Each photograph on the left-hand page shows a child using their hands to do a task, while on the right-hand page is a photo of a "handy" invention completing the same task more efficiently.

Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison

Changed Our Lives

By Gene Barretta

Henry Holt & Company. 2012.

ISBN 9780805091083

Grades 3-5


This clever book shows modern-day devices that had their beginnings in Edison's lab. Colorful and at times humorous illustrations depict Edison and his team of employees working in the lab, while the opposite side of each page shows present-day versions of his inventions. End matter includes a timeline of Edison's most famous inventions as well as short bios of some of his employees.

Curricular Connections

A Framework for K-12 Science Education identifies "Science and Engineering Practices" as one of three dimensions, and "Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science" is included as a Disciplinary Core Idea (NRC 2012). Students are expected to have opportunities to use engineering practices in kindergarten through grade 12. This is a substantial shift, especially in the elementary classroom. By the end of grade 2, the Framework recommends that students understand that "Every humanmade product is designed by applying some knowledge of the natural world and is built by using materials derived from the natural world" (NRC 2012, p. 213). This month's lesson for grades K-2 uses a simple picture book to open students' eyes to the "designed world."

In grades 3-5, the understandings about engineering and technology expand to include the development of technological designs in response to changing human needs and wants. Specifically, by the end of grade 5, students should understand that "Engineers improve existing technologies or develop new ones to increase their benefits (e.g., better artificial limbs), to decrease known risks (e.g., seat belts in cars), and to meet societal demands (e.g., cell phones). When new technologies become available, they can bring about changes in the way people live and interactwith one another"(p. 213). This month's lesson for grades 3-5 focuses on how the inventions of Thomas Edison changed the world and that many of these inventions are still around today, but have been engineered to meet our changing needs as a society.


National Research Council (NRC). 2012. A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Grades K-2: The Handiest Things

Purpose: Students will recognize the difference between designed and natural objects, identify the problems that various objects were designed to solve, and come up with ways to improve upon these designs to make the objects more useful or more fun.


Show students an example of a natural object (plant or piece of fruit) and a designed object (marker or paper clip). Ask students what the differences are between the two objects. Ask guiding questions such as: Where did it come from? and What is it made of? …

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