Sydney and Simon's WonderWheel

Wondering How the Engineering Design Process and the Scientific Method Relate? 

By Paul A. Reynolds

                                                  Click Image to Enlarge

Our team at FableVision created this WonderWonder Wheel graphic to explore the ways the Scientific Method and the Engineering Design Model both begin with WONDERING.  And how, once this kind of thinking is rolling - with all the planning, doing & observing in between - we always come back to wondering again.  Curious learners never stop asking more questions - pondering “what ifs” - or giving up because something didn’t “work.”  

The inner circle of the graphic is our attempt to express the shared essence of both models - which we’ve done our best to match on the outer ring:

1) Spark & Awareness - Engaged learning starts with a mindful disposition toward the world.  Slow down, observe, notice the details, what’s working, what’s not.  Appreciate that you are noticing your world thoughtfully - close up.  

2) Wonder & Question.  Now, we can ponder, “why is that way?” “What could solve that problem?”  Sydney and Simon’s family LOVES questions - in fact, they even collect them in their “Questions Are Delicious” can, which they read at dinner table every night.  Over the years, the educational system has packaged “content” and the “answer keys” so much that we’ve forgotten to celebrate the idea that “not knowing” is a WONDERful thing!

3) Plan.  Both the Scientific Method and Engineering Design Model require that we make a stand to begin our exploration.  How are we going to attempt to answer our questions?  To solve a problem?  This is where visualization, creative brainstorming of idea association & dot connecting, and sketching is part of the art of problem-solving.  Some of the best scientists and engineers have been artists too - drawing, sculpting, writing poetry to express their ideas and bring to life and idea is lying just beneath the surface of our most amazing imaginations.

4) Explore & Experiment.  Now we have our questions and plan - it’s time to put them into action.  This phase also requires lots of creative problem-solving to build an experiment or prototype to test out your ideas.  Letting kids design their own way toward an answer is much more powerful than giving them a prepackaged kit (which is the message of our book GOING PLACES - to “think beyond the kit”)  A young learner will own the struggle - full of potentially messy, zig-zaggy turns - but the results will be more personal and enduring if they’ve been allowed to construct their own meaning. 

5) Document.  After putting the plan into action - something’s going to happen.  Good, bad, unexpected, or a dull thud.  We have to prepare kids with notion that “it is what it is.”  There are no bad results.  Adaptive expertise requires that a learner goes beyond the comfort zone of knowing - into unchartered territory, into the dark unknown.  And when we play there - it will be hard to predict the results.  But, no matter what, the results will ALWAYS keep that WonderWheel turning. 

6) Share & Broadcast.  This is where we’ve done our best to make sense of what happened and share it with others.  Did you get the results you expected?  Were you surprised by anything?  What would happen if you modified something?  You see . . . the wondering has begun again!  In this way, science and engineering never stop - it just keeps rolling along - taking us to new heights, new places, new solutions.  And, if we mix “smarts, art and heart” - we’ll roll our big blue dot of a  planet forward to a better place!