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SEL through ESC (Engineering Sail Car)

Product is one example of the side benefits students can experience via STEM

Published January 31, 2019

By Anna Gudde, Marketing Products Coordinator

How do you feel about SEL? I’ll be honest, it’s hard to keep up with trending acronyms! But I definitely think this one is worth the time and study. Google didn’t take long to get back with me. Social-emotional learning (SEL) basically demonstrates how students relate with each other – and their teachers, parents, and other adults – in any type of interactions.

This new way of thinking helps create a caring environment for learning and forms relationships among families, teachers, and community members. Applying SEL concepts in the classroom builds on student engagement, collaboration, and trust. Exactly how can educators introduce SEL competencies in the classroom? We have the answer: project-based learning (PBL).

While the SEL framework is still in the beginning stages, Pitsco has fine-tuned the art of PBL. From our project kits to our curriculum and activities, we have exactly what you need.

Take our Engineering Sail Car, for example: this hands-on activity provides students with the materials needed to construct a sail car using STEM concepts. We have created the Sail Car Elementary STEM Activity Guide that will take students from construction and collaboration to testing using the design process and then off to racing the final product with our EZ Track Raceway. These projects can be done individually or in teams. Each step of this project can include SEL integrations – and you’ll find this is the norm for many of our STEM products.

The five SEL competencies according to CASEL, an organization dedicated to promoting academic SEL, are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

  • Construction – Hands-on learning is the core of what we do at Pitsco, and it’s a way of learning that translates to all students. During the construction of the sail car project, students exercise self-awareness and self-management skills. As they work through the building phases, they will recognize their strengths and weaknesses as well as practice organizational skills and self-motivation. The goal of the project is to have a well-constructed sail car, and that might require more patience and emotional control for some students than others.
  • Collaboration – When students collaborate and work on projects in teams, they communicate their ideas and opinions on how the product should be built. They also practice using respectful behavior with their team members. Social awareness and relationship skills are key in order to be successful as a team – members will practice handling different perspectives and building relationships with one another to accomplish their goal.
  • Testing and racing – At this point in the project, the sail car is built and it’s time to test it. Students will be faced with scenarios in which they might or might not be happy about the outcome. As with every engineering design process, problems are identified and redesign is needed – possibly more than once. This process includes a reflection of responsible decision-making in which students identify and solve problems and evaluate and reflect on their actions. When students have a final prototype, it’s off to the races! Using our EZ Track Raceway, pairs of students can compete in a race to see how their car performs. Competition among children can stir up mixed emotions, and this is an opportunity for students to learn how to manage any strong emotions or impulses they might experience.

Many of the Pitsco products can be used to incorporate SEL in the everyday classroom experience. Our balloon cars, AP dragsters, and Fold-N-Roll cars are all project-based products that can be used in the same way as the Engineering Sail Car.

At Pitsco, we recognize and understand the importance of students’ relationships and emotions as they develop mentally, emotionally, and intellectually. We strive to create opportunities to help students become successful in the classroom, at home, and in the local community.

“You can go in there on any given day and there’ll be a child who has a learning disability or a child who doesn’t speak English – we have just the whole range here – and they’ll be successful in that STEM lab.”

– Jay Parker, principal, Wallace Elementary School, Wallace, North Carolina

We enable young learners to develop the mind-set, skill set, and tool set needed for future success.

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