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Community Day Lesson Brings Families and Students Together to be Engineers

Christy McGee
Student raise their hands in class. There parents are there with them for a community project.

Empathy and engineering go together. This is what families and students at Mesa Elementary learned when they engaged in STEM lessons together in mid-October. Mesa held their first Community Day, an opportunity for families of students of all grade levels to come into classrooms and take part in a lesson together, the same lesson taught age-appropriate in every classroom, at the same time throughout the whole school.

This lesson centered around Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) based projects, with a focus on empathy. Titled “Fun for All: Planning and Redesigning,” the essential question in the lesson was “How do I create a plan to solve a problem?”

Together, teachers, students, and parents looked at different playgrounds and discussed the positives and negatives of each style. Some had slides, which kids pointed out with enthusiasm. They noted the climbing pieces and swings. Most playgrounds looked fun to most of the kids.

Upon closer look and in conversation with their parents, students were asked to reflect if ALL children could use the playground equipment they saw. And, why or why not?

After reflection came a challenge posed to students and their family members: be an engineer and plan a solution to redesign a piece of playground equipment to make it fun for everyone. Kids and parents alike had fun with butcher paper, markers and crayons, using their creativity to design a whole new kind of playground.

Overall, the lesson focused on the stages of the design thinking process often featured in STEM projects: identify a problem and create a plan to solve a problem. It met literacy standards through vocabulary discussions and textual evidence, while also meeting science standards. And at the heart of the event, students had fun with their parents using their imagination to help their fellow students.

Parent reads paper student as they work on a project together


Parent talks with a student in class about their school  project


Father helps his daughter with empathy and STEM project


Three male students draw with a marker on big piece of white poster paper


Mom works on filling out paper with daughter in class


little girl smiles at camera while drawing a picture on big white piece of paper