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Engineering Solar Energy in the Fourth Grade Science Classroom

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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

23.518.1 - 23.518.18



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Paper Authors


Chrissy Hobson Foster Arizona State University

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Foster is a Ph.D. student in Engineering Education dedicated to improving the status of engineering education in K-12. His research focus is on identifying ways to motivate K-12 students to learn engineering and on ways to develop systems thinking, a necessary habit of mind for engineers of the 21st century. Currently he is in his third year of studies and is focused on the QESST educational research program with the goal of evaluating and developing resources for renewable energy instruction under the direction of Dr. Jenefer Husman.

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Jenefer Husman Arizona State University

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Dr. Jenefer Husman received a doctoral degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1998. She served as an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama from 1998 to 2002, when she moved to Arizona State University. In 2008 she was promoted by ASU to Associate Professor. Dr. Husman serves as the Director of Education for the Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technology Center - an NSF funded Engineering Research Center. Dr. Husman has been a guest editor of Educational Psychology Review, served on editorial board for top educational research journals, and currently sits on the editorial board of Learning and Instruction and Teachers College Record. In 2006 she was awarded the U.S. National Science Foundation CAREER grant award and received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the President of the United States. She has conducted and advised on educational research projects and grants in both the public and private sectors, and served as an external reviewer for doctoral dissertations outside the U.S. She publishes regularly in peer-reviewed journals and books, and has held both elected and appointed offices in the American Psychological Association (APA). Dr. Husman was a founding member and first President of the Southwest Consortium for Innovative Psychology in Education. She currently serves as the elected Co-Coordinator of the Motivation Special Interest Group of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction.

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Christine Mendoza

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Engineering Solar Energy in the Fourth Grade Science Classroom The National Academy of Engineering has called for engineering education to bedeveloped for the K-12 classrooms in order to improve student achievement and motivation inscience and mathematics. Further, a framework for the Next Generation Science Standards is setto be released which will challenge K-12 schools to align the learning of content with scientificand engineering practice. Teachers will need to be supported in implementing curricula,pedagogy, and assessments for the teaching of integrated science and engineering around corecontent areas, including energy topics. This engineering solar energy research project aims toaddress this momentum towards integrated classroom learning of science and engineering bysupporting a fourth grade educator from a local Southwest elementary school with learningexperiences that will help develop capacity in implementing engineering design projects aroundsolar energy. This work is in the beginning stages of a design research methodology, in which alearning trajectory towards understanding solar energy through engineering design and thesupport curriculum will be documented, analyzed, and revised. In Spring 2012, a solar engineering design challenge was introduced in the fourth gradeclassroom. A researcher from the Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST)worked alongside the fourth grade educator to provide in-classroom professional development tointroduce the engineering design challenge to the students using modeling, whiteboarding, andthe engineering design process as instructional techniques. This learning experience took placeduring science classroom time for a period of two and a half weeks with 24 students. Reflectionswere collected from the researcher and teacher throughout the process in order to revise andextend the learning experience for the following school year. Revisions were made to emphasizethe iterative, systematic nature of the engineering design process and to enhance student learningof energy transfer. Further, the learning experience was expanded to include an electrical circuitscomponent. In September and October 2012, researchers from QESST are providing the same fourthgrade educator with five weeks of in-classroom professional development during scienceclassroom time to introduce the revised and extended solar engineering design challenge. Theeducator and 24 students will again experience for themselves engineering design projects, learnabout the engineering design process, and learn about energy concepts, specifically, electricity,electrical circuits, and renewable energy through hands-on experiences. Following the learningexperience, the fourth grade educator will serve as an academic coach and will work with otherfourth grade educators in the school to implement the lessons in their science classrooms. TheQESST researchers will also aid these participant educators in implementing the engineeringsolar energy learning experience. The research team anticipates that the learning experiences provided to participanteducators will result in enhanced educator self-efficacy in teaching science, classroom structuresfor student learning that value hands-on exploration of science concepts, and enhancedknowledge of energy-related content. Pre- and post- content knowledge assessments andinterviews targeting self-efficacy/classroom goal structures will be used with participant teachersand their students to measure program outcomes.

Foster, C. H., & Husman, J., & Mendoza, C. (2013, June), Engineering Solar Energy in the Fourth Grade Science Classroom Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19532

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