Engineers make a world of difference and help shape our future, and our future depends on us working together to increase the participation of women in engineering. As early as elementary school, students can begin to learn basic principles of engineering such as the design process, incorporate engineering habits of mind – which are essentially 21st Century skills, and use developmentally appropriate math and science to solve real-world problems. Introducing engineering into the classroom can increase awareness of engineering careers, spark interest in STEM, and boost confidence to pursue a future in a technically rigorous and in-demand career.
One way to introduce engineering education in a K-12 setting is as a resource class, like music or P.E., where students attend approximately once a week for a block of time. Another method would be as an informal learning environment hosted weekly before or after school. Over the course of the school year, the objective would be to engage students in authentic engineering projects informed by scientific exploration and mathematical analysis. To be inclusive, engineering topics chosen should be those most attractive to young women: usually a social context where the work demonstrates helping others. Student centered pedagogy of inquiry and project based learning would be the ideal method of facilitation for K-12 engineering education. Suggested curriculums would be research-based, standards-driven, classroom-tested curriculum that integrates engineering and technology concepts and skills with developmentally appropriate science topics and mathematics learning. Some examples include: Engineering is Elementary, Engineering the Future, and some curricula from teachengineering.org. Depending on the schools’ objectives, engineering can be incorporated into the students’ schedules though one or both of these approaches as a trial experimentation before a full adoption.
K-12 Engineering education promotes systems thinking, creativity, optimism, collaboration, communication, and consideration of ethical considerations, and improves technological literacy. An integrated STEM education in the context described above is recommended for schools desiring to challenge students to explore the connections between science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Subsequent results will be increased awareness of engineering careers, sparked interest in STEM, and students with enriched confidence to pursue careers in these fields. By focused efforts to engage and attract young women to engineering, we can work to close the vast gender gap in the field and meet the national demand for technologically advanced talent.
image source: Microsoft Design Gallery
READERS CHIME IN:
Have you tried to supplement your student’s learning with engineering education as a resource class or through an before/after school program? What program/curricula did you use? What worked? What did not?