Education Week - March 27, 2013 - (Page 19)
and minorities, into the field.
“We hear lots of tales of, ‘We can’t
find the engineers that we need,’ ”
Linda Rosen, the chief executive officer of Change the Equation, a coalition of business leaders championing
stem education, said during a forum
last month on engineering in schools.
“Many of our students reach college
without any real exposure to hands-on
engineering, or in some cases understanding what engineers do.”
Experts say it’s difficult to know
how widespread engineering education is today at the K-12 level.
A 2009 report by the National Academy of Engineering and the National
Research Council said it was “almost
invisible” in schools and “few people
even think of it as a K-12 subject.”
More recently, a survey conducted
last year on math and science education found that about one in four high
schools offers an introductory engineering course, though some analysts say
the phrasing of the survey question
makes that figure likely overstated.
Plenty of barriers exist to giving engineering a stronger presence in the
curriculum, including the pressure of
high-stakes tests in reading and math;
teacher-evaluation systems that may,
as one analyst put it, make teachers
more “risk averse”; little or no focus
on engineering in many states’ existing standards; and, a lack of teachers
prepared to teach the subject.
The recent math and science survey, conducted by Horizon Research,
found that just 7 percent of middle
school science teachers, and 14 percent in high school, had taken one or
more engineering courses in college.
Only 7 percent of secondary science
teachers consider themselves “very
well prepared” to teach engineering.
When engineering courses are
offered at the precollege level, they
usually are electives.
Also, what takes place in the name
of engineering education “does not
always align with generally accepted
ideas about the discipline and practice of engineering,” said the report
from the nrc and the National Academy of Engineering.
That document outlines three principles of K-12 engineering education.
It should: stress engineering design;
incorporate key and developmentally
appropriate math, science, and technology skills; and promote engineering “habits of mind,” such as systems
thinking, creativity, and collaboration.
Several universities have recently set
up programs to prepare engineering
teachers at the high school level. The
University of Texas at Austin launched
a UTeach Engineering program a few
years ago (akin to its program focusing on math and science teachers).
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the University of California, Berkeley, have followed suit with
UTeach programs that also prepare
engineering teachers, said Cheryl L.
Farmer, the program manager at the
University of Texas. Several other universities are working on plans to develop similar programs, she said. Tufts
University in 2011 launched a master’s
program in engineering education.
In addition to preparing teachers,
the UTeach Engineering program in
Texas developed the new Engineer
Your World high school course.
“It’s an innovative course for students who want to learn more about
engineering and its role in shaping
our world,” said Ms. Farmer.
One pilot site using the course is
the brand new Lake Washington stem
School in Redmond, Wash., where
Principal Cynthia L. Duenas said she
was surprised to discover that many
stem schools she has visited did not include engineering in a meaningful way.
“We discovered that the ‘e’ in stem
was almost an afterthought,” she
said. “That really stuck in my mental
file, so my team and I decided that it
had to be on equal footing with technology, science, and math.”
In one project, engineering teacher
Arny W. Leslie said, students faced a
scenario in which they were to build
wind turbines for Haiti to generate
electricity for running water pumps.
“What I’ve been impressed by is
the way the math and science concepts have never seemed like an addon,” Mr. Leslie said.
Meanwhile, the College Board is
actively exploring the development
of a new course framework and assessment in engineering design, but
with a twist. The idea is to produce a
portfolio assessment, as is now used
for ap Studio Art.
The common standards for science,
due out soon, may pave the way to
give engineering more attention in
schools, observers say.
Currently, no states have stand-alone
engineering standards, and only about
a dozen have included engineering “formally” in their science standards, according to Greg Pearson, a senior program officer at the National Academy
of Engineering. Two states often highlighted as having a strong engineering
dimension in their science standards
are Massachusetts and Minnesota.
The common standards identify as
a key stated aim that students apply
their learning through scientific inquiry and the engineering-design
process to deepen understanding.
Some engineering experts criticized a recent public draft, issued in
January, saying it gave the subject
short shrift and was a step backward
from an earlier draft.
But Cary I. Schneider, a member of
the science-standards writing team,
said the final version will reflect significant changes that help to address
“The engineering concepts were
fragmented” in the prior draft, said
Mr. Schneider, an associate research
professor at Portland State University in Oregon.
“Engineering design is woven
deeply into the core of the standards,” he said, “so it should become
really a part of every science education program, from K-12.”
Even as engineering courses are
becoming more widely available in
schools, some experts say the most
practical way to expose students to
engineering on a widespread basis is
by integrating it with the math or science courses they already take.
That’s the approach of two projects
the Stevens Institute of Technology,
in Hoboken, N.J., is working on in collaboration with other universities and
backed by nsf grants. They infuse engineering concepts and design activities
with high school science classes, including biology, chemistry, and physics.
“Kids are always saying, ‘Why do
I need to learn this, and what am
I going to do with it?” said Arthur
DESIGN TO LEARN
A variety of programs seek to
expose young people to engineering,
whether in the classroom or in outof-school settings.
Engineering by Design: Provides K–12
engineering and technology curriculum
developed by the International Technology
and Engineering Educators Association.
At grades K-5, it provides content to be
integrated with other subjects. In the
upper grades, it offers a set of courses
with a focus on learning concepts and
principles in an “authentic, problem-based
Future City: Provides project-based
learning experiences in which students
in grades 6-8 design cities of the future.
Groups of students team up with an
educator and engineer-mentor to plan
cities using special software, research and
write solutions to an engineering problem,
build tabletop models, and present their
ideas at competitions.
The Infinity Project: Offers engineering
curricula for middle and high school
students that help them see the value
of math and science through their
application in high-tech engineering.
Based at Southern Methodist University.
Project Lead the Way: Offers the
Pathway for Engineering program, a
sequence of high school courses intended
to have students learn and apply the
engineering-design process, acquire strong
teamwork and communications proficiency,
and develop critical-thinking and problemsolving skills. It also offers a middle school
program, Gateway to Technology, with a
strong engineering focus.
SeaPerch: Equips teachers and students
with resources to build an underwater
Remotely Operated Vehicle in an in-school
or out-of-school setting, following a
curriculum that teaches engineering and
science concepts. Sponsored by the Office
of Naval Research. The third National
SeaPerch Challenge competition is in May.
TechBridge: Seeks to inspire girls to
discover a passion for technology, science,
and engineering. Its offerings include
hands-on after-school and summer
activities for girls, teacher professional
development, and resources to help
connect stem professionals as role models
with young people. Founded by Chabot
Space & Science Center in 2000.
Camins, who directs the Stevens
Institute’s Center for Innovation in
Engineering and Science Education.
In one unit, students tackle reducing climate change through the design and construction of a small-scale
algae farm to help cut co2 emissions.
In addition, Mr. Camins’ center has
devised and is scaling up an underwater robotics program delivered
mainly at summer camps.
“Virtually everything around us has
been engineered, Mr. Camins said at
the recent forum on engineering education. “And so it’s kind of insane not
to engage kids in thinking about that
... and the decisionmaking process
that goes into all that design.”
Coverage of science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics education
is supported by a grant from the Noyce
Foundation, at www.noycefdn.org.
MARCH 27, 2013
By Erik W. Robelen
Bioengineering. Mechanical engineering. Environmental
engineering. Aerospace engineering.
Not exactly standard fare in elementary school, but several
million children have been exposed to such fields through the
fast-growing Engineering Is Elementary program since it was
launched in 2004 by the Museum of Science in Boston. Its
overarching goal is to “foster engineering and technological
literacy among all elementary-aged children.”
Students design windmills, water filters, knee braces, and
parachutes. They learn to think like an engineer and to tackle
problems the way engineers do. Along the way, they explore relevant concepts in science and other disciplines.
Eie curricular units are being used by about 45,000 teachers
nationwide this year, more than triple the figure five years ago.
Delaware is offering it to all public elementary schools, with
support from the state’s federal Race to the Top grant, said
Christine M. Cunningham, the program’s founder and director.
Some school systems, including the Lakota district in Ohio,
use it in all their elementary schools.
Jennifer L. Haynes, a 2nd grade teacher at Woodland
Elementary School in Liberty Township, Ohio, part of the
Lakota district, got started last fall with the windmill unit.
Students use concepts related to air and weather as they
learn how windmills convert wind into energy. As part of the
unit, they construct and test sails made of different materials
and shapes to catch the wind. Then, they design, create, test,
and improve their own windmills.
Ms. Haynes appreciates the way the eie program gets her
students to think through problems, especially when a device
they design doesn’t work as expected the first time.
“They have to stop and think and ask: ‘I wonder what it was
that I used that didn’t work?’ ” she said. “They really do learn
perseverance. ... In that mistake, they will learn something
else that will make it better.”
Faye Harp, a curriculum specialist for the 17,000-student
Lakota district, sees many benefits for children.
“They are utilizing science concepts they’re learning about,
but also building those 21st-century skills: thinking critically,
problem-solving, communication, collaboration,” she said.
‘Go Wild and Have Fun’
Teachers typically implement one or two units each school
year, said Ms. Cunningham. A given unit typically takes one or
two weeks to complete, with roughly 45 to 50 minutes per day
spent on it, she said. There are 20 units in all.
“Each unit is designed to integrate with a topic commonly
taught in elementary science,” she said. Those include ecosystems, energy, the human body, magnetism, and electricity.
In addition, eie staff, in collaboration with classroom teachers, recently developed math lessons for each unit and have
mapped them against the Common Core State Standards.
The Museum of Science also developed a high school engineering course, Engineering the Future. And it’s planning to
publicly roll out an after-school program for the middle grades
later this year, called Engineering Everywhere.
The Minneapolis district uses the elementary program systemwide, targeting grades 3-5. It chose units that “reinforced
and extended concepts we already address in science,” said
Joseph F. Alfano, the 32,000-student district’s K-5 coordinator
for stem, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
A bonus with the program, he said, is that as teachers come
to understand the “instructional pathway” for engineering design, they discover engineering-design opportunities of their
own that fit with the district’s math and science curriculum.
“It’s super hands-on,” said Amber Ringwelski, a 4th grade
teacher at Pillsbury Community School in Minneapolis, of the
eie curriculum. “Students are really solving problems.”
She recently taught a unit in which students explore the
properties of magnets and design a maglev transportation
system. (Maglev trains are levitated by magnets.)
“The kids love it,” she said of the program. “They’re used to
us saying, step-by-step, this is what you’re supposed to do. But
it’s not about that. It’s about them designing, to go wild and
The big takeaway for kids, she said, is about the engineeringdesign process: “Asking a question, imagining all the possibilities, designing something, creating something, and then going
back and making it better.”
Coverage of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
education is supported by a grant from the Noyce Foundation,
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 27, 2013
Education Week - March 27, 2013
N.Y.C. System School-Match Gaps Tracked
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: Educators Questioning Timing of
Resident Teachers Are Getting More ‘Practice’
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Race to Top Districts ‘Personalize’ Plans
News in Brief
Study Finds Gaps in ‘College Ready’ Math Offerings
Early-Algebra Push Found to Yield No NAEP Boost
Math Teachers Break Down Standards For At-Risk Students
More Teachers Group Students by Ability
San Diego Superintendent Pick Has Deep Parental Ties
Partnership Combines Science Instruction and English Learning
States’ Score Cards Pinpoint Problems Of School Climate
Experts: Later School Start Helps Sleep-Deprived Teens
Blogs of the Week
Project Aims to Expand Web Access
New NAEP Demands Application of Knowledge
Elementary Students Tackling Windmills
'Parent Trigger’ Laws Catching Fresh Wave
School Angles Seen in Same-Sex-Marriage Cases
‘Sequester’ Cuts Still in Place Amid Budget Wrangling
Political Storm Rages as Acting N.M. Chief Presses on With Job
Congress Eyes Pre-K
REGIS ANNE SHIELDS & KAREN HAWLEY MILES: Want Effective Teachers? Think About Your Value Proposition
ALISON CROWLEY: Getting Rid of the GPS: Teaching the Common Standards in Math
STEPHEN R. HERR: Celebrating Without Accomplishing
AMANDA GARDNER: The Many Keys To Radical Classroom Change
Education Week - March 27, 2013