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Northwest Missouri State University

News Release

Horace Mann kindergarten students tested their skills as engineers and designed back scratchers during a recent lesson.

Horace Mann kindergarten students tested their skills as engineers and designed back scratchers during a recent lesson. (Submitted photo)

Nov. 10, 2017

Horace Mann kindergarteners take on role of engineers

Kindergartners at Northwest Missouri State University’s Horace Mann Laboratory School recently discovered how engineers influence their lives by becoming engineers themselves.

The kindergartners in Nancy Farlow’s Horace Mann class discussed what engineers do and discovered there are many different kinds of engineers. They talked about design processes and looked at themselves as engineers to solve problems.

The children were presented with a problem and applied their own knowledge to design a back scratcher that could reach a place on their backs that they cannot reach to scratch.

Northwest practicum students also participated, gaining profession-based learning experience in the kindergarten classroom during the course of the project, which spanned several days in October.

“Many times adults don’t see children as capable of thinking in this way or able to figure out a problem without the help of an adult,” Horace Mann Principal Sandy Seipel said. “When children are given the process and given time to problem-solve, they start to see the importance of their work.”

Children collaborated in groups to brainstorm ideas, listen to others, ask questions and share ideas. They predicted what materials would work best for their projects and imagined a design that would solve the problem.

Using prior knowledge and new knowledge, the children built models to test their theories. They modified their designs and retested to improve the back scratchers. Children learned from design mistakes to become better problem-solvers and critical thinkers. The final step in the project included sharing their design with others as well as discussing why they chose the design and how it worked.


About Horace Mann Laboratory School

Located centrally on campus in the Everett Brown Education Hall, Horace Mann places an emphasis on innovative and interactive teaching practices accompanied with individualized instruction by dedicated and caring faculty as well as staff and administrators.

While the laboratory school benefits from Northwest programs and activities, the school also employs Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a project and problem-based curriculum that includes science, technology, engineering and math in an engaging, rigorous and relevant format that is innovative and builds critical thinking skills.

As a laboratory school, Horace Mann is a clinical teaching environment for students in Northwest’s School of Professional Education. The relationship between master teachers, practicum teachers and graduate assistants allows Horace Mann students to reap the benefits of low student-to-teacher ratio in classrooms that implement innovative teaching practices and provide learning experiences designed to stimulate each child's creative learning abilities and problem-solving skills.

For more information about Horace Mann, visit Interested parents may also contact Principal Sandy Seipel by phone at 660.562.1234 or by email at

For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468