June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
15.958.1 - 15.958.21
Incorporating Engineering Design into Elementary School Science Curricula
In this paper, we present the curricula created for our study on the impact of using engineering design to teach elementary school students science content. We consider the theoretical background that supports this endeavor, the initial set of engineering design-based science curriculum units that have been created, and the preliminary findings on the science content learning that occurs during unit enactment. The four curriculum units are Design a Musical Instrument: The Science of Sound, Design a Model House: The Properties of Materials, Design an Animal Model: Animal Studies, and Design a People Mover: Simple Machines. We used pre- post tests to compare engineering-based students’ science content gains to those of students using their district’s regular science curriculum. The results suggest that for upper elementary students, engineering-design-based science instruction enables as much or more science learning as does traditional science instruction, and at the same time it introduces students to engineering design.
Recent investigations of the use of technological design activities as contexts for secondary school science instruction have produced promising findings.1,2,3 However, students in elementary school may be even more receptive to design-based science instruction, since children of this age have been found to exhibit less apprehension toward designerly endeavors than do adults or adolescents.4 Previous research leads to the conjecture that when elementary school children engage in design activities that require specific scientific expertise, they may make progress toward two important learning outcomes: knowledge of and skills in engineering design, 5 and improved understanding of the science they use in the service of design completion.6 In this paper, we describe a curriculum research and development project devoted to exploring this hypothesis. We consider the theoretical background that supports this endeavor, the initial set of four engineering design-based science curriculum units that have been created, and the preliminary findings on the science content learning that occurs during unit enactment.
The purpose of our project is to explore an overarching research question: what are the consequences of using engineering-design-based activities as contexts for specific science content instruction in the upper elementary grades? To investigate this question, we have collaborated with local teachers to develop and implement four engineering-design-based science curriculum units for third- and fourth-grade classrooms. In engineering-design-based science, students engage in scientific investigations to deepen their understanding of a design problem’s constraints or potential solutions. The process of solving the design problem provides opportunities for students to learn and apply new science concepts and practices. For example, to tackle the design challenge of constructing a musical instrument, students must understand the relationship between an object’s physical characteristics and the sound it produces.
Wendell, K., & Connolly, K., & Wright, C., & Jarvin, L., & Barnett, M., & Rogers, C., & Marulcu, I. (2010, June), Poster, Incorporating Engineering Design Into Elementary School Science Curricula Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. https://peer.asee.org/16175
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