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National Academy Launches Initiative to Boost K-12 Engineering Education

By guest blogger Alyssa Morones

As engineering education gains a stronger foothold at the K-12 level, the National Academy of Engineering is launching an initiative to help guide educators into what is often unfamiliar terrain.

With support from a $1.5 million grant provided by multi-national energy giant Chevron Corp., the project will create an online clearinghouse of resources for educators, and also connect teachers and school administrators with engineering education experts, according to a news release.

As we've reported here at Education Week, there's ample evidence that engineering—the "E" in STEM—is getting increased attention at the K-12 level. One new development that is sure to help the cause is the inclusion of a concerted emphasis on engineering design in a new set of common standards for science. The Next Generation Science Standards were developed by 26 states and several national organizations, including Achieve, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that is also going to be collaborating on the new initiative with the National Academy of Engineering. (To date, eight states have adopted the science standards.)

Other partners in the new enterprise include the National Science Teachers Association, the American Society of Engineering Education, and the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association.

A description of the plans indicates that the National Academy and its parters will collect, organize, and share best practices and research on the most effective ways to implement engineering education in K-12 classrooms. In addition to curricular support, though, the initiative will incorporate their findings on the best ways to help educators gain knowledge and confidence to teach engineering in their classrooms.

Greg Pearson, a senior program officer at the NAE, said in an interview that, while the National Academy believes that the new emphasis on engineering in relation to other STEM subjects is important and good, "we're also aware that most of the intended audience is no prepared, and probably largely insecure about their abilities to teach engineering."

To help alleviate this, the initiative will compile existing research that identifies the best approaches to teaching engineering and technology, to help students better understand the field and its interaction with other STEM subjects.

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