Grapevine-Colleyville school district

An exterior view of the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District headquarters on Ira Woods Ave in Grapevine, Texas, Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

Two Texas teachers helped research a new way to teach elementary school students about engineering through biographies. Their work, which was a practical implementation of an academic study, was recognized this month in the national, peer-reviewed journal Science & Children.

Lexi Rix and Joe Parthemore were both teaching fifth grade at Cannon Elementary School in Grapevine when the project began in 2016. They worked with Texas State University Associate Professor Julie K. Jackson and researchers to develop a method of teaching the processes of engineering by reading biographies of different inventors that showcased their work.

Rix taught humanities and Parthemore taught math and science to the same group of fifth graders when they were working on the study, implementing the method in their classrooms.

During their studies, students were asked questions and given opportunities to identify different parts of the engineering process. Later on, groups of students worked to improve or create an alternative solution to the work of the inventors they studied, according to the article.

Rix said students’ confidence grows when they’re taught about engineering, and the process gave them the opportunity to try out their ideas.

“Focusing on engineering really helps kids develop their self-efficacy,” she said.

Parthemore said learning about famous inventors in this way also taught the students that failure is okay.

“They were seeing how some of these people failed over and over and that it was part of the learning process,” he said.

The paper deemed the method effective, saying that students reported having a better understanding of not only engineering, but the methods that engineers used to create and improve their designs.

Rix and Parthemore both still teach in GCISD. Rix is currently third grade teacher at Cannon Elementary School and Parthemore teaches sixth grade at Heritage Middle School.

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