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Engineering Is Elementary: Children’s Changing Understandings Of Engineering And Science

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Assessment of K-12 Engineering Programs and Issues

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.640.1 - 12.640.33



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Paper Authors

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Christine Cunningham Museum of Science, Boston Orcid 16x16


Cathy Lachapelle Museum of Science, Boston

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Dr. Cathy Lachapelle currently leads the assessment efforts for the EiE curriculum, designing assessment instruments, pilot and field testing them, and conducting research on how children use the EiE materials. She has worked on a number of research and evaluation projects related to K-16 engineering education. Cathy received her S.B. in cognitive science from MIT, and her Ph.D. in Psychological Studies in Education from Stanford University.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Engineering is Elementary: Children’s Changing Understandings of Science and Engineering


Findings are presented from a research program conducted by the Engineering is Elementary curriculum development project. Students participating in testing of the EiE curriculum materials were given pre-assessments and post-assessments that included questions about general engineering and technology concepts, engineering questions specific to particular units, and questions on science topics relevant to particular units. A comparable control sample of students who did not study EiE curriculum units was also assessed. Analysis of the data shows that students participating in EiE performed significantly better on the post-assessments than on the pre-assessments. They also performed significantly better than control students on the post- assessments. The engineering, technology, and science understandings of students participating in EiE significantly increased due to participation in EiE curriculum units.

Engineering is Elementary

Engineering is Elementary (EiE) is a curriculum designed to teach elementary students about concepts in engineering and technology. The curriculum is made up of individual units each of which is intended to supplement and enhance the teaching of a specific science topic. Ten (of twenty planned) units have been distributed and tested in classrooms so far. Each unit is organized around the design of a specific technology, and is associated with a field of engineering: for example, one unit is named Water, Water Everywhere: Environmental Engineering and Designing Water Filters. Each unit begins with a story about a child who solves a problem using the engineering design process, learned from a relative or other mentor. The stories are often set internationally, and feature a real or realistic technology in development, in order to provide a context for the lessons. Each unit also includes lessons where students investigate and test materials and processes for their designs, and culminates in a final design challenge.

A complete description of the EiE curriculum and its goals can be found in these conference proceedings, in the paper “Engineering is Elementary: An Engineering and Technology Curriculum for Children”.

The Research Program

As we have developed these curriculum units, the EiE team has collected pre- and post- assessments from students in classrooms field testing the units. Field testing classrooms come from six states across the United States: California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. In 2005-2006, we also collected pre- and post-assessments from classrooms in one district in Massachusetts that did not complete any EiE units. The purpose of data collection has been and continues to be twofold: (1) to learn more about what students nationally know about engineering, technology, and the engineering design process and (2) to

Cunningham, C., & Lachapelle, C. (2007, June), Engineering Is Elementary: Children’s Changing Understandings Of Engineering And Science Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1470

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