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Transforming Engineering Education for Middle Schools [TEEMS]


The need for diverse engineers is crucial to our future.  Unfortunately, few resources for teaching engineering exist, despite its inclusion in NGSS.  When resources are available, engineering often remains isolated from the rest of the curriculum.  Many teachers consider it distinctly different and particularly difficult to teach.

In the TEEMS project, we’re developing an engineering curriculum -- two NGSS-aligned units and seven lessons -- that integrate with sixth-grade science concepts. The TEEMS curriculum applies an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE). In IE, stories that are developmentally appropriate for middle schoolers are used to scaffold lessons, engaging students more deeply and helping them organize their knowledge productively.

TEEMS combines IE with transmedia storytelling, in which different elements of a narrative are spread across a variety of formats (books, websites, videos, etc.) to create an immersive experience. 

For example, one lesson integrates earth and space science with the real-life story of Apollo 13. The story unfolds via video interviews with Poppy Northcutt, the first woman to work at NASA’s mission control. Students design a filter to solve a challenge faced by real engineers and astronauts during the mission. The lesson emphasizes the use of the engineering design cycle for problem-solving.

As the curriculum is implemented in classrooms, TEEMS is researching whether students are better able to apply engineering concepts in both direct and novel ways. We’re also investigating whether the curriculum improves their STEM identity. In support of teacher professional development, we’re designing innovative models for workshops and curriculum guides. 

This research is led by Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College in collaboration with Springfield (MA) Public Schools (SPS).

NSF Awards: 18135721814033

Grade Level: Grades 6-8

Presented in: 2020 (see original presentation & discussion)


Grade Level
Published Date
May 2020
Subject Area
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