FOSS Course Summary

Course Summary – Variables and Design

The anchor phenomenon investigated in this course is a student-identified phenomenon that arises from a community problem and can be addressed through engineering design. Students look at the world around them and identify problems they might want to solve as engineers. At the end of the course, they select one of those problems and develop a prototype solution. The driving question for the course is how can understanding variables help scientists make sense of phenomena and engineers design solutions to problems?

In the FOSS Variables and Design Course, students explore the practices of scientists and engineers by stepping into the roles of each. Acting as scientists, they design controlled experiments to learn about the variables that affect an air-trolley system. Acting as engineers, they find ways to modify the system to meet criteria and constraints.

At the end of this course, students stretch beyond a teacher-defined engineering challenge to define an engineering problem of their own. This is where students can blossom in their role as engineers. They are not just solving an engineering problem because they were told to do so; they are solving an engineering problem because they care about making something in the world better for themselves and others.

The FOSS Variables and Design Course is a 4-week course designed for grades 5–8, most typically used to start a middle school student’s science education at the beginning of grade 6 or in STEM elective courses.

For a description of each investigation in Variables and Design and correlations to the Next Generation Science Standards, download the Variables and Design Course Overview PDF.

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