On a recent Tuesday morning, 10 wide-eyed kindergarten students couldn’t wait to enter the new Tech EdVentures lab at Highland Park Presbyterian Day School.
After putting on their safety goggles, the youngsters began the difficult task of assembling a solar water heater as part of a partnership between HPPDS and Tech EdVentures, a Dallas company that works with schools to promote STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) programs.
School director Sarah Good learned about the program last year through an HPPDS family, and liked the hands-on aspects, so she reached out to Tech EdVentures founder Allen Selis, a former private school headmaster from California.
“We’ve discovered that it is so important to involve children in the process and not just teach concepts from the white board,” Selis said.
After important safety instructions, children took turns using a Dremel sanding tool to smooth out the opening of the water tank and create openings for the pipes that circulate the water.
The class bell rang, which meant that the completion of the water heater had to wait until the next day. The overnight break allowed the glue around the water tubing to dry, which meant that the final assembly was just steps away.
Selis simulated the sun using a heat lamp over the solar collector and then showed the kids how to power the water pump by connecting electrical wires to a battery pack that was wired to an on-off switch.
The kids squealed and gasped as they flipped the pump’s power switch, drawing cold water from the tank and forcing it across the heat collector and back into the top of the tank, creating a continuous cycle of heating the water.
Selis said it’s one example of the project-based learning that integrates skills from across multiple subjects.
The classes “offer kids an exciting, hands-on space to use technology and help the kids see themselves as scientists and inventors,” Selis said. “This kind of learning gives them the confidence to excel across the curriculum, too.”