Elementary STEM Teaching Integrating Technology and Computing Holistically
This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase student motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). The E-STITCH (Elementary STEM Teaching Integrating Technology and Computing Holistically) project is a curriculum and professional development project designed to facilitate meaningful scientific inquiry with computer science in grades 3-6. Based on recent national findings that about half of students who intended to pursue science-related careers in 6th grade ultimately earned STEM-related baccalaureate degrees, in contrast to only one third of their counterparts who planned on non-science related careers, students' early educational experiences influence potential future career choices based on both academic preparation and the formulation of personal identities compatible with STEM pursuits. Therefore, the project's significance and importance lies in its creation of meaningful and integrated STEM learning experiences that will provide foundational knowledge, prepare young students to become informed citizens, and stimulate their interest in and awareness of professional opportunities in STEM prior to completing elementary school. Further, increased student interest and engagement with STEM by 6th grade is a critical predictor of later commitment to entering the STEM workforce. The professional development of teachers within a single geographic region will additionally provide the opportunity to establish an extended learning community of professionals that can sustain continued development and support of instruction enhanced by e-textiles, especially significant in rural districts where teachers are often geographically dispersed and may not be able to come together as a professional learning community on a regular basis.
Project E-STITCH focuses on integrating e-textiles technologies to develop innovative technology experiences for elementary teachers and students, especially in rural areas. E-STITCH is a curriculum development project designed to facilitate meaningful scientific inquiry related to physical science with technology (both hardware and software applications and development). The project targets teachers and their students in grades 3-6 by developing new curriculum to engage students in computing activities that are integrated with multiple content areas appropriate for a multi-subject classroom. These projects provide the opportunity to use new technologies as tools for scientific inquiry and data modeling while leveraging connections to students' out-of-school interests and cultural backgrounds. Project E-STITCH will meaningfully engage 30 teachers and 1,800 students in a novel approach to integrating computing into science and engineering activities in diverse rural communities across the state of Utah, including rural White, Latinx and Native American populations. E-STITCH engages students directly with STEM content and skills through the design, prototyping, and creation of objects that are relevant to their interests and needs. E-textiles incorporate elements of embedded computing for controlling the behavior of fabric artifacts. In contrast to conventional wires and breadboards, these artifacts are created using novel materials such as conductive fibers or conductive Velcro, sensors for light, sound, and pressure, and actuators such as LEDs and speakers, in addition to traditional aspects of fabric crafts. By sewing circuits using these materials to produce wearable items (e.g. t-shirts, backpacks), students engage in designing solutions that are intellectually rigorous as well as culturally and personally meaningful. The data collected will contribute to understanding of how to integrate Making effectively into K-12 core content areas in ways that align with standards and address the needs of diverse learners at scale. Because Project E-STITCH uses non-traditional materials to create new and meaningful points of entry into STEM learning through inquiry, it will engage students traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.