It’s well known that engineers need strong critical-thinking skills and technical skills specific to their disciplines. Less well known is that leaders in the field and organizations such as the National Academy of Engineering have identified a new skill that engineers need to be successful: empathy. Traditional engineering education has not sought to foster this skill.
EDC is partnering with the Boston Children’s Museum on the National Science Foundation-funded project Creating Integrated Engineering and Empathy Curriculum for Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Classrooms (E2K2). The goal of the project is to chart a new course for engineering education by examining the feasibility and promise of using engineering design challenges to engage young children in empathy.
EDC and the Boston Children’s Museum are working closely with pre-K and K educators, curriculum specialists, and staff at schools in the Boston area to develop and test integrated engineering and empathy activities for pre-K and K classrooms. The team is carrying out the following activities:
- Design and test an integrated engineering and empathy intervention model that meets the needs, priorities, and contexts of pre-K and K classrooms
- Produce a curriculum module, professional development for teachers, and design principles to guide the development of integrated engineering and empathy activities in pre-K and K classrooms
- Examine preliminary evidence about the potential of the engineering design challenges to support young children’s empathy development
The E2K2 project has generated knowledge in four key areas:
- Established early evidence of promise that supports the premise and approach of the E2K2 model. This model uses engineering design challenges with character-driven narratives to elicit perspective taking and support young children’s empathy development and engineering skills. This evidence of promise is based on teacher perceptions. Future work should explore ifwhether these findings hold using more objective measures.
- Added to the field’s understanding of contextual factors at the educator-, classroom-, and school -levels that both support and limit whetherif and how teachers are able to incorporate the E2K2 model into their teaching.
- Identified the types of professional supports and resources that build on educators’ existing knowledge and practices to help them understand the value of the model and successfully implement the activities.
- Specified a set of design principles to guide the development of new integrated engineering and empathy activities with applicable teacher support.
- Findings from this work have been shared in the chapter “Integrating Engineering and Empathy in the Pre-K/K Classroom” published in Creating Meaningful Museum Experiences for K–12 Audiences, in an episode of the Learning Unboxed podcast, and in a video featured in the 2022 STEM For All Video Showcase.
The project will:
- Advance knowledge of how to provide high-quality, integrated engineering and empathy instruction in pre-K and K—including essential supports for educators and students
- Establish early evidence of the potential for engineering design challenges to support empathy development in early childhood
- Establish the potential for the project’s resources to impact pre-K and K educator understandings and perceptions of their ability to introduce engineering concepts
Boston Children’s Museum, Boston Public Schools