Engineering fun in kindergarten

Thirteen kindergartners learned some basics of building houses and bridges this fall when civil engineer Ronnie Carpenter, AG ’98, EG ’04M, visited his alma mater to teach a lesson on the engineering feats of Curious George.

Carpenter visited the campus Early Learning Center, where he led a class in such topics as natural versus people-made items and shape identification. The goal of the lesson, which was centered on perennial childhood hero Curious George, was to boost young learners’ understanding of objects, shapes and basic geometry skills.

“Things that are people-made come in different sizes and are made in shapes and sizes specifically to fit the purposes for which they’ll be used,” Carpenter said.

To prove his point, he sat in a chair made for a 5-year-old and had Maxwell, a volunteer from the class, sit in a chair made for an adult.

The youngsters first discussed a paper house pattern that Carpenter distributed, then cut it out for later assembly. The bridge-building exercise, in which students used toothpicks, marshmallows and playing cards for their creations, was a team effort that had students working on both building and cooperation skills.

The visit to the Early Learning Center, where Carpenter’s son, Noah, is a student, was sponsored by UD’s Engineering Outreach initiative, an educational effort that encourages UD engineering alumni to share their knowledge with students in local elementary and secondary schools.