We have exciting news to share: our founder and director, Christine Cunningham, has been awarded a Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education—one of the most prestigious awards in the field! Christine is being recognized in the U.S. K-12 Education category for “pioneering a curriculum that is transforming education by introducing engineering concepts and practices at the elementary level.” Christine has worked tirelessly to bring engineering education into elementary classrooms for the past 14 years, and we’re thrilled that she’s receiving this well-deserved recognition.
Christine is in good company: this year, the award for U.S. Higher Education is going to Dr. Sandy Shugart, president of Valencia College; and the award for International Education to Chris Anderson, curator of TED. We’re not surprised to see Christine with such highly decorated peers—in the official press release, former McGraw-Hill chairman Harold McGraw III notes that they have all exemplified how “passion, hard work and an innovative spirit can combine to create tremendous results.”
When Christine told people she was developing an engineering curriculum for kids in 2003, she was met with a mixture of amusement and disbelief. An educator memorably asked her, “What?! You’re going to do calculus with second graders?” A little over a decade later, that disbelief seems antiquated—and it’s due in no small part to Christine and the EiE team’s contributions to elementary STEM education. She knew that while elementary schools prioritized science, adding engineering education to the mix could help young children develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that would serve them well in the classroom and in their lives. Now, elementary classrooms are full of young engineers—EiE has introduced engineering to 13.3 million children and 162,000 educators, and counting!
The EiE project is often characterized by its dedication to making engineering accessible to everyone—frequently summed up in our team’s favorite slogan, “Engineering for ALL!” Christine’s commitment to social justice can be seen in everything from our inclusive design principles to our outreach to students who are underserved and traditionally underrepresented in engineering disciplines. To guide EiE’s work, Christine and the EiE team drew upon their experiences in the classroom, talked with numerous individuals in the education field, and researched extensively to ensure that we reached as many students as possible. In every step of our curriculum design, we keep our goal of inclusivity in mind—and we know that it’s worthwhile when we hear educators’ stories of classroom triumphs. The EiE curriculum was hugely successful for an educator in a diverse-needs school in Chicago, inspired a classroom in Chicago to raise money for a Nepalese village’s new TarPul bridge, and helped Bronx students with Down Syndrome see themselves as storybook heroes. These incredible classroom moments were made possible by Christine’s continued dedication to supporting every student in their engineering exploration.
Ever humble, Christine says that she owes her success to the EiE team and to the amazing educators in our global community. At EiE, we innovate for the real classrooms of today—not for theoretical proof-of-concept scenarios. Educators all over the country test (and re-test!) our curricula in their own classrooms and OST programs to ensure that every EiE unit we ship out is the absolute best it can be. We consider classroom teachers to be some of our most trusted colleagues, and we’re very grateful that they continue to open their doors for us. This award is due in no small part to the EiE community’s continued support of our vision. So we invite all of you, our collaborators and friends, to send your congratulations to Christine! She shares this award with you, and thanks you for believing in EiE and in the next generation of problem solvers.