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Engineering Drawing More Notice in Early Grades

The subject of engineering is getting increased attention in the elementary grades, according to a story published yesterday in the New York Times.

The story highlights Clara E. Coleman Elementary School in Glenrock, N.J., where students receive 10 to 15 hours of instruction focused on engineering each year.

"Spurred by growing concerns that American students lack the skills to compete in a global economy," the story notes, "school districts nationwide are packing engineering lessons into already crowded schedules for even the youngest students, giving priority to a subject that was once left to after-school robotics clubs and summer camps, or else waited until college."

Also mentioned is the Engineering is Elementary program developed at the Museum of Science in Boston, which offers ready-made lessons that are being used in some 3,000 schools nationwide.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators in February introduced legislation to promote and improve engineering education in schools.

The Times story quotes a spokesman for the American Society for Engineering Education as cautioning that engineering lessons for children in the elementary grades should be kept in perspective.

"You're not really learning what I would call engineering fundamentals," he said of such programs. "You're really learning about engineering."

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