This executive summary of the grant, PECASE: Implementing K-12 Engineering Standards through STEM Integration, comes at the conclusion of the project. The purpose of the grant was to develop a definition and explore the practice of engineering in K-12 STEM classrooms. The definition was then used to assess curricula, policy documents, teacher practice, and student learning. Through this work, the definition was then used to help with the framing and development of curricula for K-5 classrooms. The resulting curricula are called the PictureSTEM units. These instructional units for K-5 classrooms utilize engineering design and picture books to teach young students about mathematics, science, engineering, technology, computational thinking, and reading in an integrated manner. Each of the modules in the PictureSTEM curriculum was developed using the curriculum design method described by Clements’ Curriculum Research Framework, which follows three stages: Stage 1: Initial Development, Stage 2: Pilot and Teaching Experiment, and Stage 3: Classroom Implementation.
The theoretical framework guiding the development of the PictrueSTEM modules came from the initial work of this grant in developing a definition of engineering for K-12 environments and built upon that work to include the following four foundational components: 1) engineering design as the interdisciplinary glue, 2) realistic engineering contexts to promote student engagement, 3) high-quality literature to facilitate meaningful connections, and 4) instruction of specific STEM content within an integrated approach. The units have an overarching engineering design project that provides the scaffolding for all learning in the unit. The engineering design learning highlights problem scoping and solution generation as an iterative process that requires learning about client needs and relevant background knowledge and applying these to their solution. The context of the units revolves around having a client who has asked for the students’ help with a problem. The contexts have multiple ways the students can get interested in the problem, such as providing a challenge, helping them to making personal connections, or highlighting the realistic nature of the work that engineers do. In recognizing the large emphasis on reading in elementary classrooms, these units build upon the rich literature in STEM and reading integration to support the learning of literacy skills, as well as providing students with background knowledge and real-world contexts through the use of high-quality STEM-focused literature. Each of the units includes science, mathematics, computational thinking, picture books, and an engineering design challenge to integrate STEM+C learning. STEM+C activities throughout the unit help students develop their prototypes or make evidence-based decisions while designing. The focus on engineering and reading allows for a rich environment in which students can explore the interdisciplinary nature of learning engineering, science, mathematics, and computational thinking.
This paper and poster presentation will highlight the engineering definition and the curricular units developed through this project, as well as highlights from the research results gleaned from this work.
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