Topic Based Learning – Engineering

Topic Based Learning – Engineering

Joined up learning

Our 11 to 14 year group chose Engineering as their topic to study during our Autumn term 2019. Below you will find an overview of what they studied: 


In the topic of engineering we have studied the origins of engineering, from early human beings and the first tools. Then we looked at bio-mimicry to see how early humans observed nature to learn how to interact with it to make things.

When they were studying bicycles in science, we looked at how bicycles helped the suffragettes to communicate with each other and organise their activism.

We then did a workshop on how a public meeting could decide whether a controversial engineering project (fracking) could go ahead. The students took different roles from engineer to activist, from local landowner to local farmer worried about his livestock.

Mondays saw us work with a history focus on early engineering and simple machines. From there we went on to learn about the invention of the wheel. We also looked at Roman arches, which involved building arches to see how much weight they could support.

We studied suspension bridges, building a model too before going on to the invention of the steam train, the Great Pacific Railroad and the damage it did to the environment and indigenous communities in America.

We finished off with engineering in the future and permaculture. We studied permaculture house design and then made a design of our own.

Creative Expression

• Gothic architecture and gargoyles with clay
• Drawing and painting industrial landscapes in the style of Lowry
• Drawing one-point perspectives – horizon line, vanishing point with train tracks
• Alexander Calder and balancing mobile sculptures
• Black-out poems


In this term we have tackled many practical aspects of engineering. We have started with the basics of mechanics e.g. the development of the wheel, use of leverage and moments, triangulation, and linear vs rotational motion.

Elements of this topic matching the KS3 physics curriculum included calculating moments and frictional forces, and investigating the properties of metals.

We considered different careers within engineering as a whole and learned about genetic engineering, focusing on its use in the manufacture of insulin.

We learned about steam engines and internal combustion engines, benefitting from Dale’s vast knowledge, experience, and engines!

We have practiced the technique of soldering, before finally putting our skills to work in our final project. There has been very limited written work this term as we have instead hammered, sawed, drilled, wedged, levered, measured, and soldered! 


We have focused on geometry this term, working from the Year 7 and Year 8 government curriculum. We started with basic angle work – identifying different types, measuring, drawing before moving on to triangles – their names, properties and constructing them, and the many types of quadrilaterals and their features.

We also learned how to calculate the size of angles according to their position around a point, along a line, and within triangles and quadrilaterals.

Alongside this we covered different areas of the foundation curriculum using the foundation 5 a day sheets. In the second half term, we learned how to calculate the angles that are made within a set of parallel lines, before moving on to three types of transformations – rotations, translations, and reflections, and finally learning how to contruct a line bisector and angle bisector.