According to the US Department of labor, by 2018, the U.S. will have over 1 million job openings in Science-related fields, yet only 16% of bachelor’s degrees will specialize in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (S.T.E.M). As a nation, we are not graduating nearly enough science related majors to meet that demand.
Engineering utilizes skills in Creativity, Collaboration and Critical Thinking, all of which address the demands of the 21st century. To start building a stronger STEM foundation in children, Washington State public elementary schools will start implement an engineering-focused curriculum starting next year.
Yet in order to teach engineering successfully, teachers themselves need tools to understand its concepts, describe its applications and be able to easily incorporated into their already full and busy classrooms. Only then they would be able nurture children’s innate sense of creativity and raise the next generation of engineers.
This project was in collaboration with Washington State Public school teachers, principals and professional development educators. The goal was to help teachers adopt and implement the new S.T.E.M curriculum into their classrooms.
Through a user-centered process of inquiry and iteration, we explored the context, target audience and nature of existing solutions.
For many teachers, teaching engineering is an unfamiliar subject, overwhelming to learn, and difficult to incorporate into existing curriculums. Teachers are overloaded with curriculum content, often receiving multiple large 3-ring binders, full of (often) outdated materials. In order to facilitate a better engineering curriculum, teachers need clear, straightforward and engaging materials to help them prepare to teach engineering.
Our goal was to educate and empower teachers in a way that acknowledges their busy schedules, commitments to specific public school teaching standards, and highlights their unique teaching styles.
In order to fully understand the context of our audience, we held research sessions with 15 participants, including Subject Matter Experts, teachers, and school administrators. To align our research with the needs of the teachers, we also participated and presented the Engineering EduKit at the S.T.E.M Education Leadership Institute in June 2013 in Seattle. We then conducted a tool-kit evaluation with a local teacher and her 2nd grade students. Through these various ways of research, we found ways to connect with and understand all stakeholders.
Artefact’s Engineering EduKit is a concise, approachable and actionable tool designed to help teachers implement engineering principles and practices into the classroom. For teachers, the Engineering EduKit:
- Is accessible and adaptable, empowering rather than overwhelming.
- Offers clear guidance and examples for the complex curriculum materials they are expected to teach with little experience and time.
- Provides simple reframing of a subject that many teachers find hard to understand, teach and implement.
- Gives the freedom to teach in their own style while adhering to specific standards such as the Next Generation Science Standards.
- For students, the Engineering EduKit:
- Highlights real-world examples and relatable materials that encourage imagination
- Helps students visualize how they can apply these much-needed skills.
- Builds a foundation for a lifelong passion for engineering
We presented the toolkit at the STEM Education Leadership Institute, where we received valuable feedback. The support for Artefact’s Engineering EduKit from Washington State teachers, principals and professional development educators was extremely positive. In addition, we conducted Engineering EduKit feedback sessions with teachers and students.
Our design decisions were driven by the realities of the current public education system and inspired by a more thorough and thoughtful education curriculum.
- Unlike many existing examples of curriculum guides, the Engineering EduKit addresses the teachers in a simple and approachable language that makes the engineering curriculum content clear, understandable, and engaging.
- Bright colors, clean fonts, and bold icons and simple tabs organize information into easy and identifiable sections that are aligned with the core engineering principles.
- The EduKit is concise, approachable and actionable in its content but also in its form and functionality. Its small booklet format features smart fold outs, that highlights key sections, such as an Engineering curriculum template.
- The bright colors, unique paper size and compact size allow the EduKit to stand out among the overwhelming and monotonous documents a teacher receives weekly, if not daily.
- The size makes the toolkit easy to carry and pass around.
- EduKit is made from half sheets of 8.5×11 standard paper size. This allows teachers and principals to easily print and assemble the EduKit at a reasonable cost.
- The standard spiral binding is affordable, yet sturdy.