Grant will help introduce engineering design process to 3rd-6th graders
Todd Kelley is one member of a multidisciplinary team researching the use of engineering design to teach science to elementary school students.
Purdue University and four Indiana school districts have received the first three years of a five-year, $6.7 million National Science Foundation grant to improve science learning in rural elementary schools.
The multidisciplinary implementation team from across campus includes Todd Kelley, assistant professor of industrial technology. As the project progresses, he will work with leaders Keith Bowman and Brenda Capobianco to teach science concepts to future and current teachers using the engineering design process. Bowman is head of the School of Materials Engineering, and Capobianco is associate professor of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education.
“This project will link pre-service teachers with in-services teachers to improve science education by introducing engineering design to third through sixth graders,” Kelley said. “We will teach science education and elementary education majors how to teach engineering design process in an effort to improve student learning.”
For example, teachers could ask their students to help create a better mitten. To do that, they would have to examine mitten materials, test which ones work best, and discuss potential design features based on their own experiences.
“It’s problem solving. We want to see if children can solve open-ended problems,” Kelley said. To do that, the research team will work closely with school partners, including teachers and administrators, and monitor student learning through year-end test scores, interviews with children and classroom observations.
The curriculum will be created with the help of Purdue professors from the colleges of Science, Engineering, Technology and Education who are subject-matter experts. For example, from the College of Technology, Helen McNally, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering technology, will assist with lessons about nanotechnology. Kari Clase, associate professor of industrial technology, will provide guidance on biotechnology.
“We are proposing something that other countries have done for a while,” Kelley says. He observed engineering design lessons in action when he visited England as part of a Lilly Creativity Fellowship while he was a classroom teacher.
“This project will allow our Indiana school partners to carve a new pathway for improving student learning, interest and engagement,” he says.
Kelley has worked at Purdue for two years. He was hired as part of Purdue’s P-12 STEM initiative that focuses on research in science, technology, engineering and math education, with a special emphasis on technology and engineering. He has been working on the grant since shortly after he arrived on campus.
“Everything in my life up to this point has prepared me for this. I’ve worked with 6th-12th grade students and written curriculum for elementary technology curriculum. I’ve been targeting that age for a number of years. I’m excited to get started,” he said.
Kelley’s responsibilities with the project will start in the spring of 2011.