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Engineering in K–12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects
entering and leaving a given area in a refuge. Some curricula, however, do focus on problems that arise in schools. For example, the “City Technology” curriculum engages students in studying and addressing problems related to classroom interruptions, procedures, and layout.
In most of the curricula, teachers use a Socratic approach in conjunction with hands-on learning to actively engage students in learning. Questions are often used to reintroduce prior knowledge and experiences, solicit preconceptions that can be reassessed, launch and guide investigations, build and check for understanding, debrief students about their experiences, and facilitate reflection.
Some of the instructional materials are designed to follow a specific instructional model. For example, all of the units in “Engineering is Elementary” follow a sequence of lessons built on one another. The first lesson provides introductory activities that prepare students for the unit. The second lesson uses a fictional engineering story as an advanced organizer for the rest of the unit. The lesson that follows the reading is designed to orient students to a specific field of engineering (e.g., mechanical engineering, civil engineering, and agricultural engineering). The fourth lesson engages students in hands-on activities that address relationships between science, math, and engineering. All of the units end with engineering design problems consistent with the ones presented in the fictional account.
“Material World Modules” at the middle school and high school levels follow a similar pattern. Each module has three basic elements. Instruction begins with an introductory activity designed to stimulate interest in the topic at hand; this activity requires that students formulate a hypothesis about a cause-and-effect relationship. Second, students engage in four or five hands-on learning activities that introduce key principles, ideas, and methods related to the topic; these activities are framed in the context of one or more design problems. Third, students participate in a design project to develop a prototype product, applying the previously introduced science concepts and skills.
A prominent feature in several curricula is an emphasis on people and storytelling. For example, the “Design and Discovery” curriculum features stories about the history of the paper clip, the development of Kevlar™ by Stephanie Kwolek, the design of a bicycle for women by Georgina Terry, and so on. The textbook for “Engineering the Future” reads like transcripts of talks by a series of guest speakers who tell personal stories about their interest in engineering and their work. “Designing for Tomorrow,” includes case studies of the development of the S.C. Johnson Administration Build designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the space shuttle Challenger disaster, and so