Design Squad Maker: Researching How to Support Upper Elementary School Children's Sustained Engagement and Participation in Engineering Design across Out-of-School Settings
This Innovations in Development project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants. The Design Squad Maker project, a collaboration of WGBH Public Television (WGBH) and the New York Hall of Science (NySci), will research and develop engineering design projects that provide evidence for how to integrate informal learning spaces with digital public media assets. The project will be designed to provide accessible, motivating pathways for children aged 8-11 in pursuing and completing ambitious, fully realized engineering design projects. The project will build on WGBH's existing Design Squad model for using media to engage kids in informal engineering activities and NySCI's expertise in facilitating children's unique design processes in museum settings. By developing and studying new strategies for supporting children's use of the design process, Design Squad Maker will address critical issues in engineering education and informal learning that remain relatively unexplored. Project research will contribute to the emerging literature on "connected learning" by building new knowledge about how children's design activities can be sustained and supported over time and across multiple contexts, such as science museums and homes. Drawing on existing research in the learning sciences and engineering education, the project seeks to advance knowledge about the role of museums, maker spaces, and digital technology in sustaining children's learning in engineering. The project will use a design-based research approach, a research and development process whereby educational designers collaborate with learning scientists. Museum practitioners will collaborate with research staff and media developers to design, test, and improve digital resources, facilitation strategies, and parent engagement strategies to support children through an entire design process. The research and development process will result in digital resources and approaches in a flexible toolkit, which will be used when assessing the project's scale-up potential at 10 museum/maker spaces. The project will conduct a summative evaluation, assessing the project's intended impacts with children, parents, and staff at museums/maker spaces across the country. The toolkit will be nationally disseminated through national partners that include the Association of Science-Technology Centers, Maker Education, the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement, and engineering education organizations. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
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