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Museum Engages Informal Educators in Engineering Design Education

October 15, 2014

In late September, the Museum of Science, Boston hosted a workshop for museum educators on "Facilitation Research in Engineering Design Education." The event, supported by an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant, brought together professionals from museums across North America to discuss best practices and current research in design-based learning and engineering education.

The Museum's Design Challenges and Research and Evaluation teams welcomed 42 educators from 22 science and technology centers and children's museums, including representatives from the Smithsonian National Museum of Air and Space, the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Lawrence Hall of Science, and Montreal Science Center. Participants experienced the Museum's Design Challenge program, discussed criteria for designing successful engineering experiences, and learned about the Museum's educational research. The visiting educators also shared their own ongoing program development work. (See photo right.)

One educator commented on the "fantastic conversations during the group discussions. It was cool to meet so many people with similar jobs and working on similar projects." Another educator said the event was "well-organized, inspirational, a great experience."

Since 2003, over 550,000 Museum of Science visitors (53% of them female) have designed, built, tested, and improved model bobsleds, satellites that can hover, and 17 other NCTL-developed Design Challenges, while learning to think like engineers. Often more than 150 visitors an hour spend up to 30 minutes on their challenges. Visitors engage in the engineering design cycle: Ask-Imagine-Plan-Create-Test-Improve. A 2013 study showed that over 90% of children connect the activity to what engineers do.

In addition to the national workshop, the IMLS funding has supported the Museum's research into successful educator facilitation of engineering programming. The Research and Evaluation and Design Challenges teams have worked to lead the field in studying how facilitators scaffold visitor learning in the Museum, how girls' engagement in engineering activities can be fostered, and how competition affects visitor engagement in engineering challenges.

The Design Challenges program is part of the Museum's National Center for Technological Literacy®.

Related Links

The Museum of Science, Boston

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