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The PictureSTEM Project: A Curricular Approach Using Picture Books to Transform STEM Learning in Elementary Classrooms(Curriculum Exchange)

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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

CEIII Wrapup

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1226.1 - 23.1226.13



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Paper Authors


Kristina Maruyama Tank University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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Kristina is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota majoring in science education with a supporting field in literacy education. She is a former elementary teacher, and her research interests include improving children’s science and engineering learning and increasing teachers’ use of effective STEM instruction in the elementary grades. More recently, her research has focused on using literacy to support scientific inquiry, engineering design and STEM integration.

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Tamara J Moore University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Orcid 16x16

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Tamara J. Moore, Ph.D., is the Executive Co-Director of the STEM Education Center and Associate Professor of Mathematics/Engineering Education at the University of Minnesota. Her research and teaching pursuits are situated in the learning and teaching of STEM fields through the integration of these subjects in formal and non-formal learning environments. Her particular focus is how engineering and engineering thinking promote learning in K-12 mathematics and science classrooms, as well as in higher-education engineering classrooms through the paradigm of STEM integration. She is creating and testing innovative, interdisciplinary curricular approaches that engage students in developing models of real world problems/solutions and working with educators to shift their expectations and instructional practice to facilitate effective STEM integration.

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Christy Pettis University of Minnesota

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The  PictureSTEM  Project:  A  Curricular  Approach  Using  Picture  Books  to   Transform  STEM  Learning  in  Elementary  Classrooms   (Curriculum  Exchange)  IntroductionThere has been an increasing need for engineering education in elementary classrooms in orderto meet the complex and multidisciplinary problems that face our society. Additionally,integration has been suggested as a way to address the challenges of diminishing instructionaltime while providing students with the opportunity for engaging in realistic and multidisciplinarycontexts that reflect real world problems.The purpose of this study was to develop a unit which integrates STEM and literacy contentinstruction in meaningful and significant ways. The following questions guided the development: 1. In  what  ways  does  participation  in  the  PictureSTEM  curriculum  affect  learners’   content  and  process  knowledge  in  literacy  and  STEM?   2. After participation in the PictureSTEM unit, in what ways do students engage in STEM habits of mind, and what is their disposition towards engaging in STEM-related learning and activities with others? 3. In what ways do teachers approach the implementation of the PictureSTEM curriculum unit?ParticipantsThis curricular unit was piloted in two urban districts in a large, Midwestern city with similarstudent demographics. Both school districts are partnered with a university through a university-industry partnership. It was implemented with 120 kindergarteners and 600 first graders in 10different elementary schools.Description of the UnitThis unit is geared towards the early elementary grades (K-2) and may be implemented in eitherfive or ten days. Animals and their homes are a high-interest topic for younger children and thisunit, Designing Animal Habitats, connects learning in the areas of life science, geometry, andengineering design through five pairs of literacy and STEM integration activities, each with theirown age- and activity-appropriate trade book. For example, the first paired lesson begins with awhole-class reading of a non-fiction text, which introduces students to the lives of wild hamstersand their habitats which builds background knowledge and creates context for the final designchallenge. It also creates a context for that day’s paired STEM integration activity, whichinvolves sorting and classifying animals.The remaining texts and activities build the skills necessary to complete the engineering designchallenge that asks students to build and test an exercise habitat for a hamster using geometricshapes. Students must demonstrate how their habitat meets the hamster’s basic needs and usetheir knowledge of shapes as well as the skill of counting to twenty to fulfill other criteria of thechallenge.ConclusionThrough implementation of this curriculum, we found that students were able to apply theirlearning in other contexts, such as caring for their goldfish. Teachers found that the picture booksprovided a realistic and engaging context in which to situate their students’ learning of theSTEM concepts. Additionally, students were able to recognize the importance of testing thematerials that they used in their engineering design challenge.The future directions for this curriculum project are to continue to study how teachers integrateengineering and STEM into their classrooms by examining how the integration of STEM andliteracy can be used as a model to enhance STEM learning.

Tank, K. M., & Moore, T. J., & Pettis, C. (2013, June), The PictureSTEM Project: A Curricular Approach Using Picture Books to Transform STEM Learning in Elementary Classrooms(Curriculum Exchange) Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22611

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