Broad agreement prevails amongst educators, industry leaders and policymakers that we must vastly improve the teaching of STEM subjects in American K-12 schools. In this technological era, literacy in mathematics, science, engineering and technology (STEM) is essential for students, and yet our nation faces dire shortages of prepared teachers in critical science and mathematics fields. And, for the most part, engineering—the creation of products and processes that drive our economy—is not part of the everyday language of American youth. If we are to prepare abundant numbers of students for the STEM workplace; raise the level of scientific, mathematical, engineering and technological literacy in the general population; and enable the U.S. to maintain competitiveness in the global marketplace, we must improve the teaching and learning of these subjects in K-12 schools.
A key strategy to address the STEM education and preparedness crisis is to create a cadre of teachers armed with deep content knowledge and pedagogical expertise across the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, who are equipped to teach the rich engineering content specified in the Next Generation Science Standards. Children learn through experiences, and the earlier we create STEM-based experiences, the better. K-12 engineering curricula is an effective way to introduce young students to relevant and innovative STEM content through exploration of the designed world around them.
Engineering design, by its very nature, is a proven pedagogical strategy that promotes learning across disciplines. The creative problem solving nature of engineering provides a motivating environment for improved learning of fundamental science and math principles that students explore early in their education, promotes critical thinking through complex real-world problems, builds upon valuable visualization and creativity skills, and potentially increases interest in STEM topics among youth. Thus, early exposure to engineering can lead to more technologically-literate citizens and increased diversity of engineers that will help shape our nation’s future.
The national Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), just released in April 2013, were developed to help improve K-12 STEM education by requiring students at all levels in K-12 to actively engage in science and engineering practices, thereby deepening their understanding of the core ideas and interrelationships in these fields over multiple years. The ultimate intent of the NGSS is to increase public understanding and appreciation of the role science and engineering play in everyday life. The benefits of engineering in K-12 education reaches beyond improved learning and achievement in mathematics and science — enhancing understanding of real-world issues and, ultimately, influencing the way people view and value their world.
The General Engineering Plus CU Teach Engineering degree creates secondary math and science teachers steeped with engineering design knowledge and pedagogy strategies to integrate engineering concepts and context for grades 7-12 students.