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Engineering the Way to Creativity & Resilience: Dr. Katie Bateman on ChangED

Posted by YES Staff on Friday, June 7, 2024

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YES Program Manager and former teacher tells podcast about engineering’s impact on students.

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Dr. Katie Bateman (right).

Ever wonder how technology and engineering can blend into the school day? Or how engineering education can foster creativity and resilience in students? The Pennsylvania-based ChangED podcast has focused on STEELS (Science, Technology & Engineering, and Environmental Literacy and Sustainability) standards and their impact as part of its ongoing exploration of technology and engineering education. ChangED podcast host Andrew Kuhn recently spoke with YES Professional Learning and Research Manager, Dr. Kathyrn (“Katie”) Bateman for the “Engineering Excellence” episode to explore the answers to those questions.

Dr. Bateman, a former teacher, said one of the perks of engineering education was its ability to easily fit into existing yearlong curricula—a benefit for educators regardless of their science expertise.

“Not every school or district is going to have a STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] teacher or a technology and engineering teacher who can do this separately,” she said. “The great thing about engineering is that it takes all of the science that you’re already teaching to your students, that’s already part of the standards, and gives you a way to use it.”


STEM Resources for Every Classroom and Teacher

That flexibility was core to the construction of YES (Youth Engineering Solutions) and EiE (Engineering is Elementary) units. Created for PreK-8 classrooms, YES and EiE units feature design challenges relevant to students’ lives and communities—everything from making bandages or solar ovens, to engineering earthquake-resistant buildings. Each unit contains nine lessons that engage students in the engineering design process to solve a real-world problem.

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Students testing landing pads. Credit: C. San Antonio Tunis.

“We can do these engineering design challenges in two weeks of 45-minute lessons that can be spread out, can be condensed—whatever works in people’s schedules. Because every school is different, every child is different, every teacher is different,” Dr. Bateman added. “It can be used in a technology and engineering space without having any science needing to be taught outside of what’s in the curriculum. Or, a science teacher can take it and use it in their classroom at the end of a unit on one of these topics.”

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Materials kits at a Professional Learning workshop. YES and EiE guides are available to download for free; printed guides and materials kits are available for purchase. Credit: courtesy of T. Kane, Dell Technologies.


Building Challenges and Student Resiliency

Student creativity is sparked through the engineering design process, and in collaborating and communicating with peers. But while engineering their own, say, earthquake-resistant buildings, students are also building their tolerance to and capacity for managing failure in healthy ways.

“Sometimes the benefit of doing engineering isn’t really about the solution that comes out of it, it’s the process,” said Dr. Bateman. “It’s the act of engaging in all of these pieces—in the communication, in the collaboration, in this imagining phase letting kids exercise their creativity and letting them fail. Letting them experience the fact that you don’t have to get it right the first time, we’re going to come back and try this again. You get the chance to try again.”

The resilience and managing failure skill sets students develop from YES and EiE resources last beyond the design challenges.

Dr. Bateman explained: “This idea of failing in engineering and recognizing that it is okay to not get it right the first time—teachers [we worked with] saw some mind shifts from their students who might’ve been a little more, ‘I need to get it right the first time. I need to be successful,’ in other areas during these programs that they were working with them in.”

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Students working together to build medicine coolers. Credit: C. San Antonio Tunis.


Better Students for a Better Society

In addition to building resiliency and fostering self-esteem in students, engineering education in classrooms increases their exposure to science and its various pathways. And the effect of that—of YES’s resources—on students can be tremendous.

“The kids we see flourishing in these engineering design challenges are not necessarily your kids getting As in the regular classroom day,” Dr. Bateman said. “More often than not, they are your neurodivergent kids, they are your kids who have IEPs [Individualized Education Programs] for a variety of reasons.”

Connecting students of different learning and language abilities to engineering and STEM (and seeing them thrive) goes directly to the heart of YES and EIE. YES and EIE’s mission is to build a generation of problem solvers and creative thinkers—precisely because the more (and more) diverse people there are in engineering and STEM fields, bringing their unique experiences and knowledge to the table, the better our society will be able to tackle the incredible challenges we face. Students who thrive in STEM and engineering are more likely to become lifelong STEM lovers, and their involvement in related fields becomes, in effect, a positive feedback loop society benefits from.

“The lines between science and engineering get a little blurry the higher level that you get,” Dr. Bateman said. “One of the ways we’ve been talking about that lately has been the idea that science produces knowledge, engineering designs solutions, but then those design solutions can help get the information to generate more knowledge, and that generated knowledge can help design further solutions.”


To learn more about YES Professional Learning, including how to attend our summer Teacher Educator Institutes for elementary and middle school students, please visit our website here.

Have English Language Learners (ELLs) or Emergent Multilingual Learners (MLLs) in class? Find the perfect STEM resources for them with our YES and EiE Curricula here.

For more about the ChangED podcast, please visit the website here.

Written by YES Staff

Topics: Professional Development, STEM Education, STEM Learning, YES Curricula, Professional Learning, Classroom, English Language Learners (ELLs), Emergent Multilingual Learners (MLLs), Media, ChangED, Interviews & Appearances, MCIU Learning Network, Podcast, YES in the Media

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