Round-Up: Holiday Fun, a Mixed ESSA Bag, and Perhaps a Reprieve from the Robots

Seasons greetings!

We open with happy holiday wishes to all. We hope you are enjoying the rituals and celebrations of the season, both festive and solemn, and finding good time to spend with family and friends.

Been a while

This week sees the first reading round-up since the spring. The recent engineering-related items below range from alternative angles on the holidays to a broadly bipartisan education overhaul to some fascinating visions of engineering advances that may soon be upon us.

Engineering angles on the holidays

Last time we offered our second annual list of engineering toys, carefully vetted and tested by experts (our own kids!). Both this year’s list and last year’s list have ranked among our most popular posts.

The INSPIRE Institute gift guide is a rich source of ideas for fun and learning.

The INSPIRE Institute gift guide is a rich source of ideas for fun and learning.

Be sure also check out another great holiday resource, the engineering gift guide from Purdue University’s INSPIRE Institute. Shameless plug: all three of our books – What’s Engineering?; Dream, Invent, Create; Start Engineering: A Career Guide – are featured, for which we thank the Institute and the discerning people behind the gift guide.

If you’ve already got all the gifts you need, alternatives for honoring the holidays might include these fun ideas for kid-friendly engineering activities or these organizations for making charitable contributions to engineering-related causes.

Education policy

In a moment widely hailed as a gift to education across the country, President Obama signed a broadly bipartisan overhaul of federal education policy on December 10. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaces, none too quickly, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).

Surrounded by negotiators, students, and teachers, President Obama signed the ESSA into law on December 10.

Surrounded by negotiators, students, and teachers, President Obama signed the ESSA into law on December 10.

Something for almost everyone

The new law offers something for almost everyone with a wish for K-12 education.

  • For conservatives, it curtails the power of the Secretary of Education to impose content or standards on states and school districts, pointedly including Common Core.
  • For liberals, ESSA cleaves apart test scores and approaches to teacher evaluation.
  • Local control advocates celebrate the law’s significant devolution of authority over learning standards and accountability to states and school districts.
  • Exactly the new approaches to accountability, however, worry some civil rights advocates. They see room for states to step back from efforts to provide access to high-quality education for all students without the strong federal role put forth in NCLB.

 

 

For STEM, it taketh and giveth

ESSA brings a mixed bag for STEM education. The money from the Math and Science Partnership Program dedicated to teacher training in STEM fields is gone, a loss of about $150 million a year.

Instead, states can use larger, more flexibly available pools of money to support “well-rounded education,” which may now include engineering, as well as math and science fields already understood to be standard K-12 issue. Also newly called out as part of “well-rounded education” activities is computer science, celebrated here and here.

Working out devilish details

In the cases of both engineering and computer science, though, the K-12 education infrastructure is notably underdeveloped. Who exactly is going to teach engineering and computer science, especially at elementary school levels, is hard to figure out.

Our new Teacher's Guide makes it easy for any elementary school teacher to get started teaching engineering.

Our new Teacher's Guide makes it easy for any elementary school teacher to get started teaching engineering.

Earlier this fall, we published a Teacher’s Guide for our elementary school book, Dream, Invent, Create, to meet exactly this need. With both basic and advanced lessons adaptable to any elementary grade level, the Teacher’s Guide presumes no prior knowledge of engineering. It’s meant to give teachers and schools an immediately usable, standards-aligned resource for bringing real engineering into the elementary school classroom.

Diversity in STEM

The future’s so bright

Engineering advances promise new, better things to come. These items got us excited, in three cases, about what the near future might look like. And in the last case, relieved might be a better word.

Signing off for the year

We’ll return in early January to continue with new posts. Happy new year wishes to all!

As always, please feel free to send comments and share with any interested friends or colleagues.


Eric Iversen is VP for Learning and Communications at Start Engineering. He has written and spoken widely on engineering education in the K-12 arena. You can write to him about this topic, especially when he gets stuff wrong, at eiversen@start-engineering.com

You can also follow along on Twitter @StartEngNow.

Our new Dream, Invent, Create Teacher’s Guide makes it easy to get started teaching elementary school engineering, even with no training in the field.

And don’t forget to take a look at our popular K-12 engineering outreach books, What’s Engineering?, Dream, Invent, Create, and Start Engineering: A Career Guide.


Photo credits: Holiday Bokeh, LenDog64, used by permission; ESSA signing ceremony, Amanda Lucidon, used by permission.