Monday, December 11, 2017 -- UNI industrial technology students, in collaboration with the Regents’ Center for Early Developmental Education, are helping children across the state "scale up" their skills as part of Ramps & Pathways.
The program is an integrative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activity that offers children from Pre-K through 2nd grade a chance to focus on learning through trial and error while developing their structure. Participants use marbles, objects that roll and do not roll, and various materials that can be used as ramps to build ramp structures and investigate the movement of marbles and other objects on inclined planes, allowing them to explore the scientific process.
To create the materials needed for pre-made kits, Beth Van Meeteren turned to Scott Greenhalgh, assistant professor of industrial technology. He had his students manufacture the Ramps and Pathways kits, nearly 200 of which have already been delivered to teachers in schools across Iowa.
"We designed the materials," said Van Meeteren, director and associate professor for the Regents’ Center. "Then we had Scott's students come over and work with the materials so they could gain an understanding of their purpose. Then they got to work figuring out how to manufacture them."
Twenty industrial technology students have combined to manufacture 62,000 blocks and 7,500 ramps for 250 kits, with each kit requiring an average of 35 to 40 hours of labor from start to finish. The soft maple wood for the materials was purchased from a local lumberyard.
For the students who will use the kits in the classroom, the Ramps and Pathways curriculum engages science concepts, such as force and motion, to help students understand how the world works.
"Young engineers use their curiosity and creativity to design and build," said Van Meeteren. "They will construct an understanding of properties of objects and how they affect movement, and will gain a knowledge of the laws of physics." Not only that, but the curriculum also aids young students in developing function skills, including inhibitory control, working memory and cognitive flexibility.
Kits have been delivered to early childhood programs, schools and teachers across the state who received awards from the Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council's Scale UP Program. Teachers and schools not part of the program will be able to purchase kits and training through Panther Educational Products, which is being organized by Lisa Riedle, head of the technology department.
Lisa Chizek from North Tama Community School District is one of several Iowa educators who have already had the chance to integrate this curriculum into her classroom.
"I learned about Ramps and Pathways when I was working on my science education master’s degree at UNI. I found this curriculum so valuable,” Chizek said. “When students are working with ramps, they have so many authentic opportunities for solving problems and learning physical science concepts. Students love working with the ramps and blocks and learn resilience and perseverance because they are so engaged in figuring out how things work. I have found this to be the case for any age.
“I would absolutely recommend Ramps and Pathways to everyone!"
There is also a workshop available to teach educators how to integrate this STEM curriculum into their workshop. To register for a Ramps and Pathways Scale Up workshop, visit https://regentsctr.uni.edu/regents-center/ramps-and-pathways-scale-registration-information.