What kind of material makes an object work well?
4. Write a reflection
Letter from the Engineer
You may know something about the work that scientists do. Some study the stars and planets. Some study the different plants and animals on Earth. Some study the non-living parts of Earth, such as the rocks, ice, and oceans. All scientists study the natural world to learn more about how it works. They notice changes and they try to understand why the changes are happening. They ask questions, and they often work with other scientists to try to find the answers. For example, scientists might ask, “Why did the birds that use to come here every summer stop coming? What happened? What is different now?” Scientists can spend years trying to answer their own questions. They make careful observations, they take notes, and they work to make sense of the information or data they have collected.
Scientists sometimes work with engineers, but the main job of an engineer is different than the scientist’s. The main job of an engineer is to solve problems, usually to provide people with something they need or want. Engineers also ask themselves questions, but their questions are about the problems they solve. They ask, “How can we build a car that uses less gasoline?” or “How can we build a robot that will help scientists explore Mars?” Engineers also study the materials that are used to make objects. They might ask, “Will this object work better if it is made from plastic or made from wood?” or “How can we make this glass stronger, so if something hits it, it will not break?”
In your investigations you will be thinking like a scientist most of the time, but there will also be times when you will need to think like an engineer, and solve problems that will then help you to learn more about the natural world.
Look for more Letters from the Engineer. These will point out some of the times when thinking like an engineer is important.
Introduce the word reflection and explain that it means thinking seriously about something you have recently learned.
Language note: Comparing reflections: Just as your reflection looks back at you from the mirror, you can look back on the day’s lesson, bringing up ideas and questions about what you have learned.
Remind students of today’s question: What kind of material makes an object useful? Students should work on the Reflection in their notebooks to complete the sentence starters:
- Something interesting I learned about objects and materials is …
- A question I have about objects and materials is …
- I wonder
You may wish to use this time to record your own reflections about how your students are currently understanding objects and materials.