Students Engineer Eco-Friendly Dog Houses

Students Engineer Eco-Friendly Dog Houses
Shawnee Mission School District

With teamwork and engineering skills, students at Nieman and Christa McAuliffe Elementary Schools designed structures to help the environment and four-legged friends.

They took part this year in “The Green Roof Project” in partnership with the University of Missouri-Columbia.

For multiple weeks, students and teachers studied the water cycle, types of roofs, and how green roofs affect the water cycle in urban areas. At the conclusion of the project, they worked to build a dog house with a green roof for a dog named Luna.

Leading up to the roof project, Nieman fourth graders and their teacher Amy Jonason built a solar bowl together. They started with a glass bowl containing grass and dirt. After covering it in plastic wrap it was placed under light and on a heating pad so students could observe condensation in action.

This multi-week project was especially fun for Nieman fourth-grader John Thompson who said he considers being a scientist someday.

“I think it’s fun,” Thompson expressed. “I haven’t learned everything yet, but it’s fun.”

As students built Luna’s dog house, they worked to achieve several goals. Their house needed to keep the dog cool, have a strong roof system, and be able to withstand the weight of a green roof. They were asked to include a waterproof layer, soil, sand, design ideas, and add seeds.

“This entire project helped them with a lot of problem-solving, working together, and being aware of how they can help the environment,” Jonason shared. “I hope my students took away that they have the power to make a great change in the environment, that science and design are fun, and that they will remember this project for years to come.”

One goal of this project is to help students learn about the important role of green building techniques like green roofs to make buildings that work better with nature, shared Dr. Laura B. Cole, assistant professor of architectural studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

“It’s a very hands-on unit and was especially designed to have students engaged in a three-dimensional way with the topics,” Cole added.

Some of the best aspects of this project was that it positioned students as “doers” who had to communicate, collaborate, think critically and creatively, reflect and refine to be successful, Joanna Roche, elementary coordinator of math and science shared.

“This provided the students an opportunity to persevere through a real-world problem,” Roche added. “By applying interpersonal skills throughout the project, they built resilience, connections to content, and one another.”