Create opportunities for students to collaborate when working on engineering projects. – Bay Area Discovery Museum

Create opportunities for students collaboration.


Creative solutions typically arise from a back-and-forth exchange, but students frequently feel protective of their ideas. Supporting group work and encouraging children to build off the ideas of others can help reframe the classic complaint that one student stole or copied another’s idea, resulting in more creative thinking and collaboration from everyone.

How to incorporate this in your classroom:

1. Ask students to think out loud.

Build in time during the Think phase of the Think, Make, TrySM engineering design process for children to share their ideas and brainstorm out loud. Encourage in-the-moment constructive feedback, so that students can refine their ideas through the suggestions of others. Students who are hesitant to share or have a hard time coming up with ideas can be inspired by listening to their peers.

2. Encourage an open exchange of ideas.

By creating a culture in your classroom where students are encouraged to build on each other’s ideas, you can promote collaboration. Explain to your students that engineers often build on and modify previous designs to arrive at the best solution possible. When students complain that someone has “copied” their idea, help them see it as a compliment, and encourage the two to work together to come up with the best final product.

3. Offer materials that encourage group work.

Projects that use large-scale materials like PVC pipes, cardboard boxes, or tarps necessitate group work because students are often unable to manipulate them on their own. Pose creative challenges—build something taller than your tallest group member, create something that can fit all of you inside—that will require group planning, as well as collaborative making.

Standards Alignment: 

Collaboration offers opportunities for students to engage in many of the science and engineering practices found in the Next Generation Science Standards.

As students work together, identify opportunities to analyze and interpret data, construct explanations and design solutions, engage in argument from evidence, and obtain, evaluate, and communicate information.

The Research* Shows

Learning to communicate thinking is key to creativity.

Providing dedicated time for students to share their thoughts out loud shows them that their ideas have value and that they matter. The more children are encouraged to communicate their thinking with peers through group planning and collaborative work, the more confidence they’ll gain in sharing creative ideas, which is the first step toward building creative solutions.

*BADM's Published Research: CREATE Framework shares more ideas on projects that encourage collaboration and an exchange of ideas

See our Educational Research in Action

Our STEM Workshop programs—as well as visits from our Try It Truck—are available to book throughout the year! Browse hands-on STEM programs for students in Preschool to Grade 5.

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