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Capitol Hill: Museum of Science Shares NSF-funded Research

July 20, 2013

Recently, the Museum of Science shared research funded by National Science Foundation studies at two Capitol Hill events related to STEM education:

In June, Museum vice president of research Christine Cunningham, director of Engineering is Elementary® (EiE®), offered evidence of how classroom engineering instruction -- formerly reserved mainly for college students -- supports science and math learning for young children. (See photo on right.) Children who use EiE perform significantly better than a control group on questions about engineering, technology, and science. The nation's largest elementary engineering curriculum, EiE is the first to focus on engineering and technology, to reinforce science concepts, and to collect data on student and teacher learning.

The NSF hosted the briefing with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Discover magazine to raise awareness among legislators, teachers, and the public about real-world applications of NSF-funded research, specifically, about how introducing engineering concepts and the engineering design process prepares K-12 students for college and STEM careers.

"NSF funding--leveraged by corporate support--is behind all our research and curriculum development activities," says Cunningham. "I was pleased to help raise awareness of how NSF supports 21st-century education initiatives." EiE has reached more than 47,700 teachers and 4 million students in 50 states.

In May, Museum educator-investigators Becki Kipling and Marta Biarnes presented intriguing developments from the Museum's National Living Lab initiative at the 19th Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) Exhibition & Reception. The Living Laboratory® table, filled with colorful interactive research toys inspired by experiments in child development, drew 285 White House and Congressional staffers, NSF representatives, and 10 U.S. House representatives.

One of the toys, Novel Toy, was inspired by an MIT study exploring the costs and benefits of direct instruction and exploratory play. Research shows that when adults give explicit instructions, children often imitate only the actions demonstrated. While this is a valuable skill, children may learn more through free play when adults let them explore objects on their own.

Supported by an NSF grant under Award Number 1113648, the National Living Lab initiative assists researchers and informal science educators in collaborations that foster public awareness and understanding of the scientific study of children's learning and development. The CNSF is an alliance of over 120 organizations concerned for the future vitality of the national science, mathematics, and engineering enterprise.

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The Museum of Science, Boston

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