ITEEA The Elementary STEM Journal, Vol. 24, Issue 4
PublisherInternational Technology and Engineering Educators Association, Reston, VA
ReleasedMay 1, 2020
The Elementary STEM Journal, Volume 24, Issue 4 - May, 2020

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Teacher Highlight - Meet Linda Harpine

Teacher Highlight

Linda headshot-300-med.jpgMeet Linda Harpine 
by Linda Harpine

Gifted Resource Teacher, Rockingham County Public Schools, Harrisonburg, Virginia 
2020 Winner of the Elementary STEM Council's Mary Margaret Scobey Award 
Virginia Children's Engineering Council Member


The Elementary STEM Journal strives to not only share great ideas, but to also highlight the great work happening in elementary STEM classrooms across the country and around the world. Teacher Highlight introduces readers to one extraordinary elementary STEM teacher in each issue. Each featured teacher is either an ITEEA Teacher Excellence Award winner or is part of an ITEEA Program Excellence Award-winning program at an elementary school. We congratulate them for the great work they do for their students and thank them for being willing to share their experiences in The Elementary STEM Journal.

tech & children-300-med.jpgIn Linda's own words:

What do you like about teaching STEM?

I have incorporated STEM activities in my classroom since the early 1990s. At that time these activities were referred to as Design, Technology, and Engineering, and later, Children’s Engineering. As the facilitator of elementary STEM projects for many years, I find it most rewarding to observe children actively engaged in the Engineering Design Process. As they work to solve a variety of “hands-on/minds-on” challenges, students have the opportunity to brainstorm, research, plan, collaborate, design, create or build, evaluate, redesign, and communicate their processes and products. The best part is that they are able to apply what they know and have fun! These are memories they will have for a lifetime.

vehicle w3D printed horns-300-med.jpgWhat has been your favorite moment in your STEM class?

The best moments of engineering projects are when students have that “Ah ha” look on their faces. It happens when some part of their plan doesn’t work quite the way they expected and they have to persevere to overcome the failure. It is exciting to see the pride in their eyes when they are able to rethink, redesign, and reconstruct a successful product!

What is your favorite activity to introduce students to STEM?

3 D palm tree-300-med.jpgOne of my favorite challenges is for fifth grade students to design and build their own motorized vehicle. The vehicle must have its own unique design, move forward under its own power, and include a 3D-printed component created by the student using the software, Tinkercad. Students first research the invention of the automobile, look at prototypes of cars of the future and as a group read the book, If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen. They keep an engineering portfolio where they document their ideas and designs for constructing their own unique vehicle. In the portfolio they make drawings that include measurements and labels as well as descriptions of problems they encounter and how they are solved. Students use simple hand tools such as a junior hacksaw, table vise, Motorized vehicle - 3b-300-med.jpgsawing jig, hand drill, hot glue gun, and, of course, safety glasses to construct the vehicle framework. Bass wood sticks, wood dowels, wood wheels, and craft sticks are among the materials provided for this part of the project. Once the chassis is complete, students add the electrical components that power the vehicle. They use a wire cutter/stripper to make a complete circuit that includes a 3.5-volt motor with motor pulley and 2 AA batteries to power a pulley attached to one axle. Students then make a homemade switch to operate their rubber-band-powered vehicle. Recycled materials are used to finish the body of the vehicle. To complete the project, students use Tinkercad to design a hood ornament or other car accessory that is attached to the vehicle body. This has been a favorite project of many students over the years.


What tips do you have for people who are just starting to teach elementary STEM

Beginning elementary STEM teachers need to realize the importance of the “T” and “E” in STEM, and that these projects can be integrated into the regular classroom curriculum. They should know that the definition of Technology is anything in our environment that is human made or human altered. A chair, a wheelbarrow, and a pencil are all examples of technology. They must understand that technology does not have to involve electronics. The “E” in STEM represents the Engineering Design Process where students apply Math and Science to solve real-world problems or challenges. At the elementary level these challenges can be taken from children’s literature. As students move through the engineering process, they should have the opportunity to explore different types of materials and tools as they design solutions to simple challenges. For young students, the engineering process should be more important than the final product. Students should be allowed to experience failure along with the opportunity to create a successful solution to a problem. It is also important for teachers to present challenges to students where there are multiple ways to solve the problem, and not all of the solutions should look the same.

girl with robot-300-med.jpgWhat are your future goals?

After forty-nine years of teaching at the elementary, middle school, and university levels, I will retire at the end of the 2019-20 school year. I plan to mentor local teachers with their classroom engineering activities. I may also continue as an adjunct instructor at James Madison University, teaching future teachers in a Children’s Engineering class. I will continue to support the Virginia Children's Council and its annual convention. The best part of retirement will be “engineering” with my five grandchildren!