Category Archives: design/engineering

Tinkering Fundamentals: FREE Online Course

Are you looking for some engaging professional learning for the summer? The Exploratorium is offering a FREE 6 week online course titled: Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning. This course introduces educators to the practices of tinkering and making… which should directly impact our understanding of engineering and STEM concepts.

The course runs June 19th through August 9th. Check it out HERE and see an intro video embedded below.


Science & Engineering of the Olympic Winter Games

NBC Learn, NBC Sports, the National Science Foundation, and the National Science Teachers Association have partnered to provide resources for teaching science and engineering ideas related to the Winter Olympic Games.

Links to Resources: (NSTA will continue to post resources on the NSTA Blog during the games)

Engineers Week: February 16-22, 2014

Engineers Week is February 16-22, 2014 and with lots of attention on STEM education and the Next Generation Science Standards this might be a good time to share some engineering instruction with your students.

The National Science Teachers Association has a list of links to articles, webinars, and lesson plans that are useful for teacher professional development about engineering. There are also ideas for how to engage students in engineering design in the classroom. Click HERE to see the NSTA links.

Engaging Girls in Engineering and Labeling the Engineering they Already Do

As the father of a three and a half year old girl, I am constantly immersed in the toys and media that are marketed to young girls. Even though I’m aware of the limiting and inequitable messages promoted by these products they still pervade my household. My daughter loves princesses and ponies.. so I love princesses and ponies. We play with these toys together and we both enjoy this type of play. So are princesses and ponies a bad thing? Should I stop this type of play?

Recently the following video (see below) from Goldiebox has gone viral. I think this is a powerful video that promotes more equitable products and opportunities for girls. But I hope that we don’t lose focus of the bigger problems. I don’t think that toys alone are the problem. I don’t think that a Barbie doll, a pony, or a barrage of pink and purple will “cause” a girl to avoid engineering (or other STEM fields). I think that our own expectations of girls as parents, teachers, friends, etc are a larger factor. The way that we talk (or don’t talk) with girls about everyday science, engineering, and solving problems is critical. We also need to move beyond “construction” as the only type of engineering. Not every girl (or every  boy) wants to build stuff. And perhaps most importantly, I think we need to be better at finding and labeling the everyday engineering that girls might be doing in their own play and helping them to see how this relates to STEM fields.

So here is my attempt to label and call out some of the emerging engineering practices that my daughter might be engaging in.

  • She loves to build with Legos and design “forts”.  These are the “construction” types of engineering practices that she engages in.
  • She creates new “technologies” with paper, glue, and markers.
  • She uses tools for multiple purposes and repurposes tools to use in new ways.
  • She identifies problems in fictional scenarios and authentic settings
  • She develops solutions to authentic problems by collaborating with her imaginary, real, and toy friends.
  • She optimizes habitats for the frogs and other critters she likes to capture and observe
  • She engages with digital simulations (iPad apps) to design and optimize solutions to problems
  • She communicates her solutions using words, pictures, song, and movement

I hope that I’m able to keep the problem-solver in her motivated and engaged. I hope that she will be able to play with princesses and ponies and also be a tenacious and creative problem-solver. I look forward to seeing what kinds of products Goldibox and others will develop to help me to do this.

Science and Children October 2013 Issue: Engineering

The October 2013 issue of Science & Children (NSTA Elementary Science journal) is completely focused on engineering design. With the ongoing adoption and implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards there is a K-12 focus on engineering concepts. This issue has several interesting articles and activities to help us envision how engineering design in the NGSS is more than having student “build stuff”.

Check out two FREE articles from the issue below:

What is Engineering? video

Here is a well produced video from the University of Newcastle in Australia that describes the work of engineers and uses some engaging examples. Could be useful for classroom instruction or in professional development on engineering. Enjoy!

Click HERE if you cannot see the embedded video below.

Thinking about Engineering Education

For the last 3 years I have been dabbling in Engineering Education. Most of the work has been at the awareness level- giving K-8 teachers (inservice and preservice) an introduction to the Engineering Design Process and helping them to think about how to identify and/or add some engineering tasks to their science instruction. With the release of the Next Generation Science Standards, we now have a strong driving force for intentional K-12 engineering education.

I have multiple projects in the 2013-14 school year that involve engineering education, so I am hoping to build up my own expertise on engineering in terms of engineering content, pedagogy, and professional development practices. Moving to a K-12 focus on engineering will be new for most of us. Below I have listed just a few of my favorite engineering resources (most of them FREE and perhaps lesser known) and have organized them by category. I’ll be posting on more individual resources in the coming weeks.

Overview of Engineering Education

Appendix I of NGSS– This is the cyclical 3 part Engineering Process we should be considering

Core Ideas of Engineering and Technology” by Cary Sneider NSTA Article

Engineering Education K-12– a 2009 report

2009 Issue of the Bridge– Linking engineering and society (has some good articles about teaching and learning engineering)

Resources on Engineering PD

Elementary Teacher Professional Development in Engineering: Lessons Learned from Engineering is Elementary

Engineering Efforts and Opportunities in the National Science Foundation’s Math and Science Partnerships (MSP) Program

Learning and Teaching Science Through Engineering Design: Insights and Implications for Professional Development

Engineering Advocacy

Engineering Messaging– Provides statements and tools for making the case for engineering education

Resources for teaching about Engineering

K-5 Application (Design) Handbook

Those Darn Squirrels (Teaching Engineering with a Picture Book)

A World in Motion– Sources of FREE K-12 Design Challenges

PBS Design Squad

More to come 🙂

NGSS Update July 2013

Hi all,

I apologize for the lack of blog activity recently- I hope to have lots of good things to share in the next few months. For this post I just wanted to update and summarize some resources on the Next Generation Science Standards that might be useful for your independent NGSS summer learning:

  1. If you haven’t visited the NGSS site recently you should take a look. All but one of the appendices are now posted and the standards themselves are now viewable and searchable in your browser (not just the original PDFs). I highly recommend spending some time with the following appendices:
  2. 1 Pager of NGSS Resources– This PDF contains hyperlinks to losts of resources from NSTA to support learning about the Practices of Science and Engineering, Crosscuting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas
  3. FREE Asynchronous Online workshop for WA K-8 Teachers- From WA Science Standard to the NGSS
  4. NSTA NGSS site– Lots of good stuff here but can be tricky to find on the NSTA site if you don’t know to look for it.
  5. 1 Pager of STEM Practices– this table from STEM Lesson Essentials is very helpful in seeing connections between practices.

STEM Practices

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 11.10.24 AMYesterday I recommended the book STEM Lesson Essentials Grades 3-8 as a wonderful resource for any K-8 teacher looking to dig deeper into understanding STEM education. One of my favorite parts of the book is a simple (yet powerful) page that organizes the Practices of Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics in a way that helps us to make connections between these practices. I’ve adapted it into a one page document with some hyperlinks to source documents. This might be a useful resource of those of you who are building leaders, professional development providers, or teachers looking to design integrated STEM lessons. Enjoy!

STEM Practices 1 pager


Design, Make, Play: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 7.23.22 PMMy copy of Design, Make, Play: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators by Margaret Honey and David E. Kanter just arrived today. I’ve given it a good skim and started to read the first few chapters. So far, my impression is that any leader, curriculum director, teacher, professional development provider, policymaker, etc looking to better understand the design process (think engineering) will find this to be a useful read. This is not a book of activities or design challenges but a compilation of chapters and case studies from experts in STEM education. There is a chapter by Dale Dougherty discussing Make Magazine and the Maker Faire movement. Then Phil Bell and Helen Quinn (of Framework for K-12 Science Education fame) contribute a chapter on how designing, making, and playing relate to the upcoming Next Generation Science Standards.

Click there link HERE to preview a copy of Design, Make, Play on Google Books.

One aspect of the book I’m very interested in is the focus on designing, making, and playing versus a focus on “engineering”. Nothing against engineering per se, but engineering may conjure a very specific role/image/career path for many of us. Whereas the idea of designing, making, and playing seems applicable to all learners.

Let me know if you pick up a copy and want to do a “virtual book study” or just share some learnings. Enjoy.