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I Am STEM, an Engineering Lesson Library for PK-5 Educators

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Resource Exchange

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Katherine C. Chen Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Dr. Katherine C. Chen is the Executive Director of the STEM Education Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Her degrees in Materials Science and Engineering are from Michigan State University and MIT. Her research interests include pre-college engineering education, teacher education, and equity in education.

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Mia Dubosarsky Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Dr. Mia Dubosarsky has been a science and STEM educator for more than 20 years. Her experience includes founding and managing a science enrichment enterprise, developing informal science curriculum for young children, supporting Native American teachers in the development of culturally responsive science and math lessons, developing and teaching graduate level courses on assessment in science education, and working with thousands of educators across the country on developing meaningful, standard-based STEM experiences for their students.
Mia currently serves as the Director of Professional Development at WPI's STEM Education Center and as PI of an IES funded grant, Seeds of STEM. In these roles she oversees the development and facilitation of STEM themed professional development programs for PreK-12 teachers and administrators and the development and testing of STEM curriculum for preschool classrooms.

Dr. Dubosarsky has an undergraduate degree in Biology from Israel's Institute of Technology and a Doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction (science education) from the University of Minnesota.

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Donna Taylor Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Donna serves as the Assistant Director of Professional Development with the STEM Education Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). She has 15 years of classroom experience, teaching science and STEM to students in grades 5-12. She holds National Board Certification in Early Adolescence Science and is a NASA Network of Educator Astronaut Teacher. Donna has won several awards for teaching and curriculum development. While her current position places her in many roles, she spends the majority of her time guiding and empowering educators to bring high quality, inclusive STEM to their students.

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The I am STEM Lesson Library has been curated as a digital library for PK-5 educators written by teachers, for teachers. It contains several lesson plans for each grade level that help educators engage students actively with engineering in a fun but structured way by solving problems in story books. Each lesson is aligned to a grade level science, technology and engineering (STE) or math standard, as well as an ELA standard and is designed to be both linguistically and culturally responsive. Throughout each lesson, the students work in teams to follow the steps of the engineering design process, culminating with a presentation and a reflection on how students can see themselves in STEM.

Although each engineering challenge will vary depending on the chosen book and standard(s), the lessons are designed to be completed in five-45 min segments. Learning targets and relevant vocabulary are provided and STE/M and ELA practices are identified for each lesson. During each of the five days, teachers guide students through one or two components of the engineering design process. The problems are intended to be solved using everyday materials that can be found in most households or classrooms including recycled and/or craft materials.

Teachers begin by reading a book and identifying a problem in the story. Students work in teams, following the engineering design process, to brainstorm solutions, plan and sketch their ideas, build and test their prototype and improve their design, all while sharing and collecting feedback throughout the process. Their design should not only meet the criteria and constraints of the problem, but must be informed by STE/M concepts related to the chosen standard(s). After at least one iteration, students present their solution to a “special guest” of the teacher’s choosing. This could be a parent, school or community member that has a vested interest in the student’s work. At the conclusion of their presentation, students reflect on how they see themselves in STEM by completing the statement, “I am STEM because…”.

One example is shared below. (Full lesson contains much more detail) Example: Grade 1 Lesson Book Title: Trombone Shorty Overview: This is a story about music and how family support and encouragement helped a young musician find his passion. The students will experience jazz music and discover how people make sound or music through instruments. After listening to the story, students are challenged to create a musical instrument for Trombone Shorty and his friends. The instrument should make sound that can be heard from a distance of 12 feet, and be played while walking or marching.

STE Standard: PS4. Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer 1-PS4-1. Demonstrate that vibrating materials can make sound and that sound can make materials vibrate. 1-PS4-4. Use tools and materials to design and build a device that uses light or sound to send a signal over a distance.

ELA Standard: 1. Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

Chen, K. C., & Dubosarsky, M., & Taylor, D. (2021, July), I Am STEM, an Engineering Lesson Library for PK-5 Educators Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015