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Explaining Engineering to Young Students

Last week, while I was roaming the exhibit hall at the U.S. News STEM Solutions conference, a new picture book for young kids about engineering caught my eye. (OK, likely it was the bright colors and fun illustrations that got my attention. But I immediately stopped for a closer look.)

dream invent create.JPG

Bob Black, former deputy executive director of the American Society for Engineering Education and previous editor-in-chief of PRISM magazine, was standing behind the exhibit table. (Black also previously worked for U.S. News, which sponsored the conference.) The new publication, called Dream, Invent, Create, he told me, was meant to explain to primary school students the role engineering plays in our everyday lives. And, of course, to get them excited about possibly becoming engineers.

It's a modest effort so far—he hopes to get the $5 book into teachers' hands (and he assured me it wasn't a money-making endeavor). His group Start Engineering is also releasing a career guide for older students in January 2015. 

But the book got me thinking about recent efforts to infuse K-12 schools with more engineering, including the Next Generation Science Standards and even the most recent NAEP exam on engineering literacy—and how far most schools are from making engineering a part of their everyday work. Yes, there are comprehensive engineering programs out there, like Engineering Is Elementary and Project Lead the Way, that a growing number of schools are picking up on. But it's far from a universally held idea that teachers should spend time explaining what engineering is to kindergartners and 1st graders.

It's just a vagrant Friday thought. If you have anything to add, including other examples of engineering books and resources for the littlest guys that have worked well for you, please do so below. 

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