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Effective Engineering Activities for Out-of-School Time (research to practice)

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

It's Elementary

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.464.1 - 23.464.16



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Paper Authors


Melissa Higgins Engineering is Elementary, Museum of Science

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Higgins is the director of Curriculum Development for the Engineering is Elementary (EiE) program at the Museum of Science (MoS), Boston. A founding member of the EiE team, Higgins received her B.A. in Architectural Studies from Connecticut College, and M.A. in Museum Studies from the Harvard Extension School. Prior to working with EiE, Higgins was an Exhibit Hall Interpreter and helped deliver educational programs to MoS visitors.

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Jonathan Hertel Engineering is Elementary

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Effective Engineering Activities for Out-of-School Time (research to practice)In recent years, interest in the use of STEM programming in out-of-school time (OST) settingshas grown rapidly. OST policy organizations, such as the National Afterschool Association andthe Afterschool Alliance, have publicly expressed a need to include quality STEM activities inOST. At the same time, OST educators have expressed excitement about the types of hands-on,creative opportunities supported by STEM and have started searching for STEM curricularmaterials appropriate to the children and structures of their programs. This concurrent top-downand bottom-up support provides a strong foundation for introducing STEM activities, but thecriteria, constraints, and opportunities of OST programs necessitate development of curriculadesigned specifically for this unique environment. This paper will follow the initial testing,evaluation, and redesign of two engineering units developed for OST programs serving 3rd-5thgrade children.Testing and evaluation of this curriculum informed the development of the following designbeliefs for successful OST engineering curricula and related learning outcomes for programparticipants.Kids will best learn engineering when they: • engage in activities that are fun, exciting, and connect to the world in which they live. • choose their path through open-ended challenges that have multiple solutions. • have the opportunity to succeed in engineering challenges. • communicate and collaborate in innovative, active, problem solving.Kids will learn that: • they can use the Engineering Design Process to help solve problems. • engineers design technologies to help people and solve problems. • they have talent and potential for designing and improving technologies. • they, too, can be engineers.Iterative testing and the use of several formative evaluation instruments also designedspecifically for OST have helped to guide the creation of this new engineering curriculum.Ensuring that all children participating in the curriculum are being positively affected is a maingoal of the formative assessment being conducted. While a wide cross-section of children attendsOST programs, the highly diverse population served in many programs provides an opportunityto reach groups often underrepresented in engineering. Across the country, over 40% ofafterschool programs serve a majority of minority youth. Data from the National HouseholdEducation Survey (NHES) indicates that African American and Latino youth are more likely toparticipate in OST programs than white youth. Thus, including engineering curricula in OSTprograms helps to introduce new demographic groups to engineering practices, skills, and careeropportunities.Evaluation results, which will be presented in the paper, suggest that participating children arehaving fun engaging in the activities, are confident in their use of the engineering practicesduring design challenges, and are more interested in careers in engineering.

Higgins, M., & Hertel, J. (2013, June), Effective Engineering Activities for Out-of-School Time (research to practice) Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19478

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