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Engineering Curriculum Transforms Disadvantaged Schools

January 21, 2013

A North Carolina educator is helping disadvantaged schools become integrated STEM schools using Engineering is Elementary® (EiE®), the innovative K-5 curriculum developed at the Museum of Science's National Center for Technological Literacy®. Liz Parry (in photo), the coordinator for partnership development at The Engineering Place, a North Carolina University education center, is an engineer and an EiE professional development provider who works with teachers at some of the state's most disadvantaged schools. Parry shows teachers how the engineering design process -- the focus of the EiE curriculum -- can not only help children learn, but also change the very culture of a school.

Parry says that EiE has helped students at five schools learn to work productively in groups and take responsibility for the outcome of their work. Students apply the engineering design process in a variety of ways, including even solving disputes at one school. Students also document their thinking processes and reflect on what they have learned in "STEM notebooks" that they carry from class to class -- along hallways labeled with signs like "Innovation Way" and "Problem Solving Parkway."

"We are adopting the 'habits of mind' of engineers--we are teaching kids how to become critical thinkers and problem solvers who can work in teams," Parry explains. "To help us do this, we use EiE."

Parry also asks the teachers with whom she works to keep STEM notebooks, just as their students do. And, as teachers respond to their students' reflections and comments, Parry responds to the teachers' thoughts. "I get note after note from teachers describing how this process has changed their career, changed their outlook, and rejuvenated them," Parry says. "They say, it's the way they have always known kids should learn . . . and that they should teach."

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The Museum of Science, Boston

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