Integrating Science and Engineering Education

By Claymier, Bob | Children's Technology and Engineering, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Integrating Science and Engineering Education


Claymier, Bob, Children's Technology and Engineering


Welcome to our second issue of Children's Technology and Engineering for 2012-13, where we look at how teaching science can be integrated into an elementary STEM program.

Most educators recognize that science and engineering make up one half of the STEM acronym. However, many people are confused between the definitions or goals of science and engineering, and how the two disciplines are interrelated. First, let's clarify the meaning of science and engineering, and then explore why integrating science and engineering education makes sense in the K-12 curriculum

Rodger Bybee, Executive Director Emeritus of Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, defines the two disciplines by writing, "Science proposes questions about the natural world and proposes answers in the form of evidence-based explanations, and engineering identifies problems of human needs and aspirations and proposes solutions in the form of new products and processes."

A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas, by the National Academy of Science, lists eight essential practices for learning science and engineering in Grades K-12. This list of practices outlines the differences and similarities between the scientific inquiry and the engineering design processes, showing how closely related the two disciplines are in action:

1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)

2. Developing and using models

3. Planning and carrying out investigations

4. Analyzing and interpreting data

5. Using mathematics and computational thinking

6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)

7. Engaging in argument from evidence

8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Now let's address the idea of why the teaching of science and engineering should be integrated in the K-12 curriculum. The mission of Next Generation Science Standards, being developed by The National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve, is to produce a set of high-quality, college-and career-ready K-12 science standards. One of the disciplinary core idea domains is engineering, technology, and application of science. Therefore, the importance of connecting these disciplines is regarded as essential at the national level.

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