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Making Elementary Engineering Work: Partnerships and Practice, Stevens Institute of Technology

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Making Elementary Engineering Work: Lessons from Partnerships and Practice

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1036.1 - 22.1036.13



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Paper Authors


Elisabeth W. McGrath Stevens Institute of Technology

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Elisabeth McGrath is Senior Research Associate at Stevens Institute of Technology and Executive Director of the Stevens Center for Innovation in Engineering & Science Education, Hoboken, NJ.

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Carol Shields Stevens Institute of Technology

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Carol Shields is a Curriculum and Professional Development Specialist at Stevens Institute of Technology's Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education.

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Augusto Z. Macalalag Jr. Stevens Institute of Technology

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Augusto Z. Macalalag Jr. is an Assistant Director of STEM Education Research at Stevens Institute of Technology's Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education. He is responsible for conducting teacher workshops, program development, research, and publications as part of the National Science Foundation's Mathematics and Science Partnerships Program. His research interests include improving K-12 science and engineering education through teacher pre-service, and in-service programs.

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Making Elementary Engineering Work: Lessons from Partnerships and Practice—NJ Institution of Higher EducationInfusing engineering into mainstream K-12 education—not merely as an elective orextracurricular activity—has been a strategic goal of XXXX since 2004. Since that time XXXhas provided professional development to more than 3,300 teachers in New Jersey,approximately 2/3 of whom are elementary teachers. These professional developmentexperiences have ranged from intensive, three-year school and district-based partnerships tosingle-day workshops. A number of lessons learned have emerged as a result of these variedcollaborations.This paper will explore our rationale behind increasing elementary students’ exposure toengineering, both from an educational outcomes perspective as well as a workforce developmentperspective. It will describe the different types of partnerships, along with the motivations,objectives, and resulting benefits of and to the various partners involved, including corporatesponsors, public education agencies, institutions of higher education, districts, schools, andindividual teachers. Lastly, it will suggest recommended strategies for incorporating engineeringinto elementary classrooms in the areas of professional development, administrator buy-in,parent and community involvement, research goals, and policy impacts.Our research and other studies have shown that students’ and teachers’ science learning ispositively impacted when engineering design is a key component of science instruction(Macalalag et al, 2010). Though not definitive, this promising evidence, does suggest thatengineering design may be a vehicle to improve student achievement in science. However, webelieve that engineering also provides a unique vehicle to expose students to 21st century skills,which are acknowledged as increasingly critical in today’s global innovation economy. In acurrent project, we are testing the hypothesis that engineering design activities increase studentacquisition of 21st century skills, such as creativity, innovation, problem-solving, and persistence.From a workforce development perspective, studies suggest that the science and engineeringworkforce, only 4 percent of the United States population, creates the technological innovation tosupport the remaining 96 percent of the population (National Science Board, 2010), and it istherefore imperative to attract more students to these fields. One means of doing so is throughthe engagement of a broader and diverse population of students at an early age in relevantsocietal problems in which engineering solutions may play a critical role.Partners involved in these collaborations range from individual teachers to schools and districts,to corporate partners, to engineering institutions and institutions of teacher education, to astatewide consortium of districts and other education organizations in the context of a five-year,$11.5 million Math-Science Partnership grant. Goals and expected benefits to the various typesof partners will be discussed.Lastly, recommendations to help address the key goals and needs of different types of partners—the What’s in it for me?—will be delineated to expand the participation of elementary students inengineering and deepen the impact of such experiences.Macalalag, A.Z., Lowes, S., Tirthali, D., McKay., M., & McGrath, E. (2010). TeacherProfessional Development in Grades 3-5: Fostering Teachers’ and Students’ Content Knowledgein Science and Engineering. American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference,Louisville, KY, June 2010.National Science Board, Science and Engineering Indicators 2010. Arlington, VA: NationalScience Foundation (NSB 10-01), Figure 3-3.

McGrath, E. W., & Shields, C., & Macalalag, A. Z. (2011, June), Making Elementary Engineering Work: Partnerships and Practice, Stevens Institute of Technology Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18317

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