Engineering design is not simply a useful tool for teaching science and mathematics content, but it is also a unique discipline in which science and mathematics are employed as tools for solving design challenges. With generous support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and in partnership with national organizations including NASA, the UTeachEngineering program at the University of Texas, Austin, has undertaken to demonstrate how rigorous engineering content can be deployed in secondary classrooms. Together, we have developed, piloted, refined, and deployed a year-long high school engineering course built on a foundation of solid research in the learning sciences, couched in the context of a rigorous engineering design process, and scaffolded to build engineering skills and habits of mind. We have also tested a variety of teacher preparation and support models that continue to evolve in response to the needs of our diverse teacher population.
By the end of 2012, states will be considering a final draft of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in an effort to develop common core educational standards to complement those in English language arts and mathematics that have already been adopted by 46 states. Although the public release of the NGSS is not due for a few months, a preview can be seen in A Framework for K–12 Science Education: Practices, Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts, published by the National Research Council in July 2011. The Framework is intended to serve as the blueprint for the Next Generation Science Standards. I have had the good fortune to serve as a consultant on Framework with the charge of assisting the study committee in deciding how best to include engineering and technology as an integral part of science. The results of that effort appear in Chapter 3 and Chapter 8.I am also a member of the writing committee working on the Next Generation Science Standards, and although I can’t discuss details yet, I can say that we are following the Framework very closely.
The Next Generation Science Standards integrate engineering practices as a core method for learning science and as a 21st century skill set that all students must develop. Engineering is transforming our world, serving as the core of the innovation economy and touching all aspects of our lives. But the gap between where we need to go and classroom reality is particularly salient in high school biology, where memorization is king and engineering practices and outcomes are largely absent, even though biotechnology is exploding. As biology is typically a first exposure to high school-level science, it is particularly unfortunate that students experience such an uninteresting, low-tech, memorization-driven approach.
Children are born engineers—they are fascinated with building, with taking things apart, and with how things work. However, K-12 educational settings have traditionally done little to develop children’s engineering and technological literacy. The Engineering is Elementary (EiE) project fosters engineering and technological literacy among elementary school students and educators. EiE has created a research-based, standards-driven, and classroom-tested curriculum that integrates engineering and technology concepts and skills with elementary science topics. EiE lessons not only promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning in grades 1-5, but also connect with literacy and social studies. To date, EiE has reached over 2.7 million students and 32,000 teachers and is presently used in all fifty states.
The Engineering is Elementary (EiE) project fosters engineering and technological literacy among elementary school students and educators. EiE has created a research-based, standards-driven, and classroom-tested curriculum that integrates engineering and technology concepts and skills with elementary science topics. EiE lessons not only promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning in grades 1–5, but also connect with literacy and social studies. To date, EiE has reached over 2.7 million students and 32,000 teachers and is presently used in all 50 states.
“Engineering is taught only sporadically in K-12 schools, despite growing evidence that engaging in engineering education leads to improved student learning and achievement in mathematics and science, in part by connecting these subjects to real-world problems.” Read this brief to learn more about the increasing efforts to integrate engineering into the K-12 curriculum.
Biocomplexity has emerged as an umbrella science that helps us understand how humans are an integral part of nature. Thinking about humans as agents within and for ecosystems as opposed to external actors who produce an impact is a radically different way to think about people in the world, and brings a number of new perspectives to the practice of ecology. The Biocomplexity and the Habitable Planet project was funded by the National Science Foundation to bring this new perspective to high school environmental science and ecology instruction through a high school capstone course
The Institute for Women in Trades, Technology & Science (IWITTS) offers products and services that help technology and science educators increase the number of women and girls enrolled in their classes and encourage those students to stay enrolled. In 2006, IWITTS was awarded a five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant from the Research on Gender in Science and Engineering program to fund the CalWomenTech (CWT) project. Between 2006 and 2011, seven California community colleges received training and technical assistance to help recruit and retain women into STEM programs through the CWT project.
Exploring Computer Science (ECS) is a computer science (CS) curriculum designed in response to research findings about the severe limitations of Advanced Placement CS in engaging more than a narrow band of students. ECS is a year-long college-preparatory course, consisting of six units, including problem-solving, Web design, introduction to programming, robotics and data analysis. Designed to introduce students to the foundational, creative, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and problem-solving nature of computer science, ECS is offered in 27 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second largest district in the country. It is also offered in San Jose, Chicago, and Puerto Rico. ECS addresses the injustices of historically denied computer science education to underrepresented populations while also providing students with an engaging yet rigorous experience. ECS teachers are at the core of this effort to increase access to computer science knowledge. They are supported with a professional learning community, in-classroom coaching, and on-going professional development. ECS and Into the Loop, a K–12/university partnership dedicated to increasing equity and access to quality computer science learning in public schools, has been a catalyst and foundation for Mobilize, an NSF CISE and Math Science Partnership-supported project. At the heart of Mobilize is “participatory sensing”—a method of data collection and analysis in which students will use mobile phones and Web services to systematically collect and interpret data about issues important to them and their communities.
According to the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), personal digital fabrication will offer revolutionary changes for manufacturers and the everyday consumer. In fact, personal fabrication was featured in SME’s 2009 Innovations That Could Change the Way You Manufacture list. Advanced manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printers, are transforming engineering education; within the past few years, desktop manufacturing systems have become affordable at the K–12 level. The FabLab Classroom was funded by the National Science Foundation to explore the use of digital fabrication to allow students to create digital designs that are realized as physical objects, such as model satellites (in collaboration with NASA), wind turbines, and speaker systems.
This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, grants # 0822241, 1449550, 1650648, and 1743807. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these materials are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.