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Icard teacher selected for engineering program

posted Feb 26, 2016, 5:29 AM by Bcps Bcps   [ updated Feb 29, 2016, 8:07 AM by Terri Willms ]

Icard Elementary School teacher Andrea Gladden never throws away a toilet paper tube. Since introducing engineering in her classroom at Icard Elementary School, she has found too many good uses for them.

“My classroom has a reuse bin full of recycled materials ready to be devoured by students when they are engineering,” Gladden said. “In fact, I have never found so many ways to reuse toilet paper tubes.”

At first, engineering was a new subject for Gladden, and she wasn’t comfortable or prepared to teach it. Her journey to change that started four summers ago when she was selected for the Mickelson Exxon program and met Exxon Mobile engineers. Two years ago she become part of a study that looks at how elementary students learn about engineering through design challenges. And in January she was chosen for the Engineering is Elementary (EiE) scholarship through the Museum of Science, Boston.

As one of five teachers in North Carolina to participate in the E4 Study (Exploring the Efficacy of Engineering is Elementary), Gladden’s lessons on civil engineering and environmental engineering were videoed and analyzed for two years. She said that study concluded engineering helps students, including exceptional children, learn science. Gladden said EC students respond well to exposure to engineering in the classroom. “It is the engineering...the problem solving. It is the communication and collaboration that those students need to help them be successful. If we are to compete globally to solve the world's problems, we need to expose our kids to engineering at a young age.”     

Now as one of 100 elementary school teachers from 24 states to earn the EiE scholarship, Gladden will receive a complete classroom set of EiE curriculum materials plus tuition and travel to a three-day, hands-on workshop at the Museum in Boston this summer. She also will be able to bring back professional development opportunities for others.

She said, “I have a feeling that there are many teachers who have little or no experience teaching engineering. If they were like me, they know teaching engineering is important and want to try to teach engineering, but they really do not know where to begin.” 

Incorporating engineering into her curriculum has renewed Gladden’s love for teaching. She said, “After the E4 Study concluded, I had transformed from a teacher who knew very little about engineering, to a teacher who wanted to teach engineering every day.”

Gladden said the ultimate goal is to introduce her students to engineering and inspire them to consider fields in science and engineering.   

Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Larry Putnam said, “I have observed first hand in Ms. Gladden's classroom. During one lesson, students were simulating an actual oil spill and which materials would absorb oil better than others. The students were so engaged because it was a ‘real world’ problem to solve.”


Photo, top:  Icard Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Andrea Gladden and some of her students sort through the many toilet paper tubes the class has collected for engineering projects.

Photo, bottom right:  Icard Elementary School fifth-grade students in Andrea Gladden’s class weigh “red blood cells” (Red Hots candy) before mixing them with “plasma” (cornstarch), “white blood cells” (marshmallows) and “blood platelets” (sprinkles) during a science lesson.  

Cheryl M. Shuffler
Public Relations Officer
Burke County Public Schools
(w) 438-2989 | (c) 432-6212