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S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation Supports Out-of-School Engineering Adventures

January 06, 2012

Sparked by more than $740,000 from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, the Museum of Science's Engineering is Elementary program® (EiE®), part of the National Center for Technological Literacy® (NCTL®), is expanding into out-of-school-time (OST) settings. A new curriculum, Engineering Adventures (EA), will develop activities and materials for afterschool, summer camps, and other OST settings. The Bechtel grant supports the creation and testing of the first five EA units.

While distinct from the classroom-based EiE curriculum, Engineering Adventures revolves around a similar set of core ideas. They include: creating an engaging context for a design challenge; encouraging children to think creatively and critically; and using the steps of the Engineering Design Process to solve the challenge. But the OST units will involve less reading and writing, a more flexible structure, and a special sensitivity to the logistical challenges of afterschool and camp environments.

Last summer, the Museum tested the first EA unit with 30 afterschool and camp programs across the country. Children and educators responded positively. At the Cambridge (Mass.) Community Center, in the "Hop to It" mechanical engineering activity, third to fifth graders created a trap to catch invasive cane toads safely and humanely. One EA developer, Katy Laguzza, told the Cambridge Chronicle, "We give a real-world context to the lessons so the kids remember what they learn." Two girls said that one of the engineering skills they learned was how to work on a team.

A second EA unit, Bubble Bonanza: Designing Bubble Makers, focusing on materials engineering, was field-tested nationally this fall. Units 3 and 4 will involve engineering an aid drop package for a disaster area and designing an earthquake-proof structure, respectively. The engineering theme for unit 5 is still under discussion.

Referring to last summer's engineering camp, sponsored by Science Applications International Corporation in Bel Air, Md., EiE Teacher Educator Pamela Lottero-Perdue told The Dagger, "Children are natural engineers. They solve problems routinely." Said John Ferriter, SAIC senior vice president, "Engineering Adventures is a way for Science Applications International Corporation to help introduce the youth of our community to engineering and scientific research."

Bechtel has contributed an additional $926,770 for EiE in-school programming which as of October 2011 had reached over 32,700 teachers and 2.7 million students in 50 states. Bechtel is a global engineering, construction, and project management company. STEM education is a primary interest of the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

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The Museum of Science, Boston

  1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114  phone: 617-723-2500