Optional Teaching Supplies

Materials for this Unit

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Each unit includes a letter to send home with student for materials donation for the unit. Click here to download a copy of this letter in Spanish.

Additional Storybooks for Classroom Use

Storybooks introduce each unit with the tale of a child somewhere around the world who solves a problem through engineering. The books integrate literacy and social studies into the unit and illustrate for students the relevance of STEM subjects. 

Explore the Lessons

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

What is Technology? / Grade 4 / Worcester, MA

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Extension Lessons

What are Extension Lessons?

Extension Lessons use EiE activities as a springboard to more directly reinforce other curricular concepts.

View all Extension Lessons »

To explore the hilly roads of Santorini, Greece, Despina uses a wheelchair, but she loves the freedom of movement she has when she’s swimming in the ocean.  While Despina and her cousin Chrisanthy are on a dive, Chrisanthy loses her favorite swim goggles in deep water. Then, as they’re heading home, they find a “treasure”—a scientific device floating in the water. The girls return the instrument to ocean engineers and learn how engineers design submersibles to collect ocean data. Despina and Chrisanthy are inspired to design their own submersible and retrieve the lost goggles.

Download a PDF of our Storybook Illustrations.


Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Despina Makes a Splash / Grade 3 / Naples, FL
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EiE - Taking the Plunge: Designing Submersibles Lesson 1

Reflection Questions

How does Glen elicit prior knowledge from his students before beginning the lesson?

Glen has students share their prior knowledge through classroom conversation and writing on sticky notes.

  • Before reading the storybook, Glen has students write down what they think ocean engineers do. He reads some of the responses out loud so students can hear their peers’ ideas. (:20- 1:29)
  • Glen has students hypothesize what the story will be about based the title. (1:36- 2:06)
  •  Glen also asks students to share what they know about the ocean. (2:46- 3:36)  

How does Glen emphasize certain parts of the storybook, and why do you think he picks those parts?

Glen projects slides from the storybook to emphasize important concepts from the story.

  • Glen projects a map to show students the geography of Greece and to point out the island of Santorini, where the story takes place. (2:09- 2:40)
  • Glen shows a picture of Despina in a wheelchair and has students discuss what they know about disabilities. (4:10- 4:50)
  • Projecting a picture of a submersible allows Glen to show students parts of a submersible and hint at the design challenge in lessons 3 and 4. (5:04-5:55) 
Despina Makes a Splash / Grade 5 / Lawrence, MA
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EiE- Taking the Plunge: Designing Submersibles Lesson 1

Reflection Questions

What do you notice about the way George makes use of both the basic and advanced EiE worksheets provided in the binder?

Rather than having each child fill in the Advanced Lesson 1 handout individually, George projects it on the white board and uses it as a discussion guide. Later, he projects the Basic handout and students come to the front of the class to fill it out.

  • Referring pages 20 and 21 of the storybook as a guide, students contribute ideas to the discussion about how Despina completed the Ask step of the Engineering Design Process (EDP). (4:30)
  • George has a student read page 30 of the storybook aloud, then he discusses how Despina completed the Imagine and Plan steps of the EDP in the passage. (5:22)
  • For review after the discussion, George has students take turns filling in the Basic handout that he has projected on the white board. (7:10)

How does George rely on the storybook characters to help him introduce key science and engineering concepts?

George provides context by displaying photos from the book and referring to the characters as he explains science and engineering concepts.

  • When comparing the buoyancy of salt water and fresh water, George displays an image of Despina diving in the ocean to remind students where salt water comes from. (1:39)
  • When discussing the Improve step of the EDP, George refers back to Despina and predicts that it may take her five or six tries before she gets Chrisanthy’s goggles. (6:22)
  • To prepare his students for the struggles they may encounter when trying to design a submersible, George emphasizes Despina’s “drive and desire” and how it helped her achieve her goal. (6:54)

Students think like ocean engineers as they use sounding technologies to generate data about a model of the ocean floor.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Into the Deep / Grade 3 / Naples, FL
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EiE - Taking the Plunge: Designing Submersibles Lesson 2

Reflection Questions

How do you see Glen handling the fact that the sounding pole data his students are collecting is not what he expected?

Glen accepts the answers that his students are getting, despite the fact that the data is not showing where all the underwater items are located. He then uses the data to prompt a discussion about how the sounding pole technology could be improved.

  • Glen acknowledges the repetition in the sounding pole data and reminds his students that their findings are telling them something about the bottom of the ocean that they’ll interpret later. (03:58)
  • Glen shows the inside of the model ocean to his students and facilitates a conversation about how the sounding pole technology can be improved. (6:21)
  • In his interview, Glen addresses the problems his students encountered with the sounding pole technology and the potential they found for improvement. (8:34)

How does Glen keep his students engaged in the classroom experience and involved with whole-group discussion?

Glen uses interactive facilitation strategies and audiovisual learning tools to keep his students engaged and on track.

  • Glen has his students repeat after him in unison, “depth data grid.” (2:20)
  • Instead of instructing his students in how to color the depth data grid, Glen asks them what they would do as group. (2:56)
  • Glen plays an audio track of a sonar beeping and uses a flashlight to demonstrate how much of the ocean has yet to be studied. (8:03)
Into the Deep / Grade 5 / Lawrence, MA
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EiE- Taking the Plunge: Designing Submersibles Lesson 2

Reflection Questions

How does George use this lesson to reinforce/model the collaborative nature of engineering work?

George takes every opportunity to reinforce the idea that engineers work together to solve problems.

  • George highlights that fact that in the storybook, Despina and Chrisanthy are “teaming up” and “partnering” to design a device that will retrieve the goggles. (1:07)
  • As George reviews the learning goals for today’s lesson, he includes an understanding that “ocean exploration requires collaboration.” (1:26)
  • In the Sound Pole activity, George has each group test and collect data for one row of coordinates on the grid. Then groups compile all their data to create a complete profile of the ocean floor. (3:14–4:23)

What are the steps that students go through to create their visualization of the ocean floor?

George has his students display the sounding pole data in different ways so that they can better visualize what the data shows.

  • First, the students test each location with the sounding pole and indicate its depth with the corresponding color-coded number. (4:07)
  • Then, they compile the data from all the rows to create the complete profile. (4:50)
  • Next, they translate the numbers in each row into bars on a graph, which provides a more pictorial representation of the objects that are under the water. (6:07)

 Students explore how the mass and volume of an object affects whether it sinks or floats in water.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
A Sinking Feeling / Grade 3 / Naples, FL
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EiE - Taking the Plunge: Designing Submersibles Lesson 3

Reflection Questions

How does Glen integrate kinesthetic experiences into his classroom?

Glen has students physically represent some of the key concepts explained in the lesson.  

  • Glen points out the differences between musical instruments and engineering instruments by having students act out playing a musical instrument. This helps them remember that the word can be used in two different ways. (:33- :45)
  • Glen has students act like fashion models in order to help them remember that the word “model” has different meanings. (:28- :31)
  • When explaining mass, volume, and density, Glen has students stand up and expand or contract their bodies to help them remember the concepts. 

What strategies does Glen use to help keep the vial testing process orderly and make sure students understand the results?

Glen assigns roles to students, testing each vial one at a time, and demonstrates how to record results after each test.

  • Glen assigns one person from each table to be the “tester” and another to be the “artist” who records all the results. (4:56-5:18)
  • Glen asks for predictions from the class before each vial is dropped into the tub of water.
  • Glen draws an image of the tub on the white board and uses magnetized pictures of each vial to indicate its position in the tub. (3:47-4:10)
A Sinking Feeling / Grade 5 / Lawrence, MA
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EiE- Taking the Plunge: Designing Submersibles Lesson 3

Reflection Questions

How does George reinforce the idea that his class is a community of learners who learn together?

George makes sure that students share their results and are in agreement about the outcomes of each test they conduct.

  • Before they start testing vials in the water basin, George explains that each group will collect their own data, but that they will reconvene at the board to compare results and see if everyone is in agreement or if they have “some outliers.” (2:26)
  • After two students indicate their results on the board, George makes sure that there is class consensus on the results before they move on. (3:49)
  • After Group C places the vials in order in terms of mass, George asks groups A and B what they discovered. When they all agree with the order, George explains that conclusions can be drawn from the data. (6:32)

What small changes to the lesson did George make to meet the needs of his students?

George made several small modifications to the way lesson materials were prepared and used by students.

  • Instead of providing a small tank of water to each group, George has individual students take turns testing the vials in the large central basin. (2:01)
  • Because George has access to a white board, he attached the vial picture cards with magnets instead of having kids tape them to chart paper. (3:32)
  • George has provided a pan balance for each group instead of having the class share a single one (5:20).

Students apply their knowledge of floating and sinking and ocean engineering as they imagine, plan, create, test, and improve their own submersible.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Designing a Submersible / Grade 3 / Naples, FL
Click here for a more in-depth look

EiE - Taking the Plunge: Designing Submersibles Lesson 4

Reflection Questions

What classroom techniques does Glen use to guide his students through the Engineering Design Process (EDP)?

Glen posts the EDP around his classroom as a reference for his students and uses the intro and wrap up in Lesson 4 as a way to reinforce the EDP.

  • Glen refers back to the storybook and asks his students what process Despina used to solve her problem. (00:42)
  • Glen reinforces what step his students are on by projecting “imagine” onto the whiteboard. (01:14)
  • Glen has the steps of the EDP taped to the wall as a reference for his students. (2:29)
  • Glen wraps up Lesson 4 by asking his students what process they used to solve their design challenge. (10:08)

How does Glen respond when students’ designs do not work as expected?

Glen encourages his students to see engineering failures as a learning opportunity.

  • During the improve step, Glen uses one group’s failure to make their submersible float as a learning opportunity about density. (8:42)
  • In his interview, Glen reinforces failure as a learning opportunity for both teachers and students. (10:22)
Designing a Submersible / Grade 5 / Lawrence, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

EiE- Taking the Plunge: Designing Submersibles Lesson 4

Reflection Questions

How do George’s introductions serve to connect today’s Lesson 4 activities with what the students have already done?

George’s introductions remind students of the context and the criteria of the challenge they have been working on.

  • On the first day, George gets all his students on the same page by reviewing the basic questions on the “Ask” handout from Lesson 4. The handout reminds students that the submersible they design should float, should be as a small as possible, and should have enough buoyancy to lift items from the floor of the basin. (0:50)
  • On Day 2, George reviews the term “criteria” and reminds students of the specific criteria that their submersible needs to meet: it must be buoyant and it must include lights and a battery. (3:43)

How do you see George’s students practicing math as they evaluate their designs?

George’s students evaluate their designs using the numeric scoring system provided in the guide.

  • Students must score their designs on three different variables (volume, instruments package pick-up score). The total score on all variables determines how well the design performs. (6:30–6:50)
  • As students improve their designs, they think about which vials they are switching out and recalculate their volume and instrument scores to increase their overall scores. (8:45)