1. Melissa Higgins
  2. http://www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-higgins-5849966
  3. Vice President of Programs and Exhibits
  4. Design and Development: Engineering and Empathy Pre-K/K
  5. https://bostonchildrensmuseum.org/learning-resources/engineering-and-empathy
  6. Boston Children's Museum
  1. Michelle Cerrone
  2. https://www.edc.org/staff/michelle-cerrone
  3. Senior Research Associate
  4. Design and Development: Engineering and Empathy Pre-K/K
  5. https://bostonchildrensmuseum.org/learning-resources/engineering-and-empathy
  6. Education Development Center (EDC)
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  • Icon for: Melissa Higgins

    Melissa Higgins

    Lead Presenter
    Vice President of Programs and Exhibits
    May 10, 2022 | 09:23 a.m.

    Thanks very much for engaging with our video! We're excited to hear your thoughts. Please let us know what resonated with you about our video and our project. We'd love to hear questions you have about how we are approaching this work. 

  • Icon for: Ximena Dominguez

    Ximena Dominguez

    Researcher
    May 10, 2022 | 10:33 a.m.

    Melissa and Michelle: What a wonderful video! And what a powerful idea - to link empathy with engineering. In our early STEM work, we have similarly found that engineering naturally aligns to the hands-on and playful experiences that children (and teachers and families) engage in. I really appreciated how the scenarios you shared in the video represent authentic problems or challenges that resonate with young children. Can you share more about the kinds of activities you did in your co-design workshops to come up with some of these ideas? I'd also love to learn what other engineering practices you have found children engage in easily and whether there are practices that they needed more support from adults to engage in (and what strategies you have found worked well). Thanks again for sharing such great work!

     
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    Michelle Cerrone
  • Icon for: Michelle Cerrone

    Michelle Cerrone

    Co-Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 10, 2022 | 11:15 a.m.

    Thanks so much for your comments and questions, Ximena! We took multiple approaches to the co-design process both during the initial workshops and in follow-up ones after teachers had implemented one or more of the lessons. First, we had teachers work together to complete one of the activities. We then facilitated a group conversation/interview where teachers reflected on the activity, how it relates to what they already do, and how they would support their own students in doing the activity. A critical part of these conversations was having teachers discuss their specific teaching contexts (e.g., the unique characteristics of their students, schools, neighborhoods) and how they might adapt the activity based on those contexts in order to create  authentic and meaningful learning opportunities that allow children to connect what they are doing to their own lived experiences. After teachers had implemented one of the activities, we asked them to participate in follow-up discussions where they design their own engineering and empathy activity.

    No surprisingly, we've found that scaffolding the experiences is key. Teachers emphasize the importance of things like pre-teaching vocabulary like empathy and engineer, using stories as an entryway and frame to engineering challenges, and building in moments for children to reflect on how they would feel as the character/end user of an engineering challenge. Planning these moments helps children practice perspective-taking, a key part of empathy development, while also serving as an initial part of the planning phase.

  • Icon for: Jasmine Maldonado

    Jasmine Maldonado

    Director of Science Coaching
    May 10, 2022 | 10:52 a.m.

    Great video! This definitely resonates. In one of our PreK programs at NYSCI, we are incorporating a literacy-based engineering approach where story book characters are in need of help. We have seen that this narrative framing sparks empathy and motivates the students to engage in problem solving within the context of an engineering design challenge.  I see some circle time reading clips in your video as well. Are you also using characters from those stories to launch a design challenge as well? 

     
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    Michelle Cerrone
  • Icon for: Michelle Cerrone

    Michelle Cerrone

    Co-Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 10, 2022 | 11:25 a.m.

    That's such an important point, Jasmine. We do indeed use stories as a starting point for an engineering challenge and have also found that narrative framing - with deliberate teacher prompts and facilitation - supports empathy and perspective-taking in particular. We are big fans of the work going on at NYSCI!

     
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    Jasmine Maldonado
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    Diana Muckelrath

    Graduate Student
    May 10, 2022 | 03:34 p.m.

    I really enjoyed the video Engineering and empathy. Great for younger grades. I am a second graduate Communications major at Texas A&M University, Texarkana. I really like the younger grades 

     
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    Michelle Cerrone
  • May 10, 2022 | 06:20 p.m.

    Imagine a world where engineering and empathy go hand-in-hand at all levels! We know that students from historically marginalized groups in engineering (girls, students of color, etc.) tend to be motivated by socioscientific and justice-oriented engineering contexts/challenges, but I am unaware of any work in higher grade levels that incorporates empathy or emotional learning into engineering. I am interested in hearing your thoughts about how your work might translate to grades 1-5 and/or secondary engineering? How might STEM teachers support connections between engineering and empathy in later grades?

     
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    Michelle Cerrone
  • Icon for: Melissa Higgins

    Melissa Higgins

    Lead Presenter
    Vice President of Programs and Exhibits
    May 11, 2022 | 09:26 a.m.

    Thanks so much for your comments and questions, Christina! One of the inspirations for our project was the work of Jo Walther and colleagues at UGA and their research around empathy and engineering at the college level. We would be very excited to think about the full skills trajectory and impacts of integrated empathy and engineering experiences across all grade levels. I think the general approach that we are taking, using activities that generally encourage thinking about who you are designing for or with, would be intrinsically motivating to children across K-12. When students are engaging in the steps of the engineering design process, encouraging them to pause and think about the feelings and needs of the users of the design at each step of the process could be an interesting approach for teachers to take!

     
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    Michelle Cerrone
    Christina Baze
  • May 17, 2022 | 05:27 p.m.

    Hi again, I plugged your video to Julie Robinson and her team, so I will do the same for her video here. I encourage you to check out Teachers' Culturally Relevant Engineering Self-Efficacy.

  • May 10, 2022 | 07:04 p.m.

    This is such a great project (though I'm obviously biased as a fellow engineering and empathy nerd). Your video captures your collaboration with educators so well! I'm curious to know more about how you adjusted the activities based on teachers' input about their communities and teaching contexts. Were there shifts in the activities themselves or the ways teachers facilitated them that were unexpected but ended up being really central to your approach?

     
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    Jasmine Maldonado
    Michelle Cerrone
  • Icon for: Melissa Higgins

    Melissa Higgins

    Lead Presenter
    Vice President of Programs and Exhibits
    May 11, 2022 | 09:42 a.m.

    This is a great question, Suzy! We probably could write an entire paper just on this. I'll highlight a couple of comments from teachers regarding their contexts. We know that teachers were very interested in adding or enhancing contexts for the activities that were culturally relevant. For example, we have an activity centered on engineering a shelter to protect a family from a snowy winter, and some of the teachers we worked with were excited to use a storybook that featured an immigrant family coming from the same country (with a warm climate!) that many of their students were from. I'll also note that we did hear from some teachers that they felt they needed to do more fine motor skills support for the hands-on engineering this year than they might have in past years--impacts of the pandemic and perhaps less focus on fine motor skill development. So that's perhaps a short-term context, but something that I think we'll want to track over the next couple years to better understand impacts. 

     
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    Michelle Cerrone
  • Icon for: Margo Murphy

    Margo Murphy

    Facilitator
    Science Instructor
    May 11, 2022 | 05:54 a.m.

    What a great question your are pursuing in this project and I love the intersection of empathy with engineering.  Building empathy is not just for the humanities :) Your video does a really nice job showcasing the students in their process.  I am curious about the population of students in the pilot. What was the diversity (cultural, economic) of the classrooms? Were these public or private schools? Did teachers select this or was it across several classes in one school? I have follow-up questions but would love to know how teachers came to participate. Thanks!

     
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    Michelle Cerrone
    Christina Baze
  • Icon for: Melissa Higgins

    Melissa Higgins

    Lead Presenter
    Vice President of Programs and Exhibits
    May 11, 2022 | 09:32 a.m.

    Thanks for your comments, Margo! To be very honest, flexibility in recruitment was the name of the game over the course of our project. Our teacher participant process was massively impacted by the pandemic. Originally we had intended to work very closely with our public schools, but research activities have been largely suspended in the district for the past two years. Instead we worked primarily with other PreK/K classrooms (part of our local Universal PreK initiative, parochial schools, Head Start, and private schools. While we did have some cases of multiple classrooms participating in one school, we worked across a variety of schools. We generally advertised our teacher professional development workshops through Boston Children's Museum's email lists and social media (we tend to reach many folks across the state and more broadly in New England). 

     
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  • Icon for: Kathy Renfrew

    Kathy Renfrew

    Facilitator
    Education SPecialist
    May 11, 2022 | 09:29 a.m.

    When I grow up I want to live in the world where these children live as they are engaging with the scientific and engineering practices and the engineering design process but they are also thinking their work from a place of kindness, empathy for others. One thing that struck me was here was not only a great opportunity for the integrating of engineering and empathy but also for literacy. I noticed that the teachers were reading from books to help the children better understand the concepts of empathy and I was wondering if there was any thought to specifically looking for books that might show the connections between engineering and emapthy. 

    I really like that this project feels cost accessible for schools and the teachers who were involved seem to be very pleased. I am wondering what some of your eary challenges were getting started and what challenges you foresee as you try to scale the program up?

     
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    Michelle Cerrone
    Christina Baze
  • Icon for: Michelle Cerrone

    Michelle Cerrone

    Co-Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 11, 2022 | 08:18 p.m.

    Thanks for your great observations and questions! We’ve found that stories are a great entry point. Not only do they build on what teachers and children are already doing, but stories for this age group tend to have characters that children can easily relate to, especially with help from their teachers. In choosing stories, we looked for ones that allow for design challenges that are developmentally appropriate and not cost prohibitive. Most stories that meet these criteria inevitably offer opportunities to engage children in empathy. In fact, this project is inspired by the work of Jo Walther at UGA and his idea that engineering design – whether at the preschool or college level – virtually always involves an end user whose needs, preferences, and perspectives must be taken into account by the engineer.  

     

    As for challenges…not surprisingly, Covid has posed the greatest challenge. Like many projects, we had to shift our plans for in-person data collection to remote and we haven’t yet stepped inside a classroom. We’re quite eager to grow this work. From the research perspective, I see measurement of our outcomes as a challenge/exciting avenue to explore.

  • Icon for: Dorothy Bennett

    Dorothy Bennett

    Director of Creative Pedagogy
    May 11, 2022 | 10:24 a.m.

    Melissa and Michelle

    This video is great and it was so good to see what we have all been talking about across our projects in action!  One thing that always strikes me as potent about good early childhood education is that it really throws a spotlight on foundational concepts and skills that are necessary throughout the age span.  For early childhood education, developing empathy is central to learning how to function in the world and it is fascinating to see in your work with teachers how engineering has become a catalyst and tool for cultivating empathy.  Also so evident how what teachers are fostering perspective taking that many say is so hard to do at this age-- the engineering experiences appear to allow young children to concretely talk about and consider what someone needs in a situation.  Curious to hear more about what teachers feel they are getting out of integrating  engineering activities into their classrooms and also some of the challenges they have with integration, knowing  how engineering isn't conspicuously central to their curriculum.  What are the real hooks for them?  Hoping we have the chance to collaborate together to look at all of these things across the ages!

     
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    Jasmine Maldonado
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  • Icon for: Michelle Cerrone

    Michelle Cerrone

    Co-Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 11, 2022 | 08:39 p.m.

    Hi Dorothy,

    Thanks for commenting - it's always helpful to hear your insights! We haven’t yet finished data collection, but so far teachers haven’t raised any challenges beyond the logistics of remote data collection. During teacher workshops, teacher descriptions of how they had previously implemented engineering activities suggest that they often don't have enough time for the re-design and reflection phases of EDP. I will say that recruiting preschool classrooms was much easier than kindergarten classrooms, which we hypothesize is in part – as you suggested – due to kindergarten teachers having less flexibility in their curricula. 

    Looking forward to building on this work and the good work you all are doing!

  • Icon for: Latrenda Knighten

    Latrenda Knighten

    Facilitator
    Mathematics Content Trainer
    May 11, 2022 | 05:00 p.m.

    Oh my goodness! The opening segment of the little girl bursting with excitement and pride because "she helped" the family was too precious - what a wonderful idea for your project to combine engineering concepts with empathy!  You can see from the looks on the students' faces how excited they were as they completed their problem solving challenges. The activities look so engaging and multi-faceted - you can tell that there are multiple entry points to promote access for all students.

    I know you are still collecting data; however, I'm curious if you can share some of the comments, observations, etc. from the work with students.  Have teachers noticed that their students are more empathetic with each other? Do teachers feel more confident in their abilities to incorporate engineering design concepts in the early childhood classroom? Are students exhibiting more problem solving skills in classroom activities? What observations have the parents made?

     
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    Michelle Cerrone
  • Icon for: Jake Foster

    Jake Foster

    Founder
    May 13, 2022 | 03:20 p.m.

    I agree about the student enthusiasm and voice in the video! It is great to see the impact of this approach for young students. I also agree that the types of measures and impacts Latrenda has noted would be great to get some insight on. So many schools are struggling with how to integrate SEL in academic instruction -- too often they treat those as two separate and disconnected efforts. Your works, with any evidence of impact, could really help schools see how these can complement each other.

     
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    Latrenda Knighten
  • Icon for: Michelle Cerrone

    Michelle Cerrone

    Co-Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 11, 2022 | 08:42 p.m.

    Such good questions, Latrenda! I wish data collection and analysis were complete so I could answer them with more certainty! Anecdotally – and based on what we’ve heard so far – teachers are noticing that children are using the term empathy outside of the activities and that they are excited and proud to tell their teacher when they demonstrate empathy. Stay tuned for answers to your questions about teacher efficacy and parent observations!

     
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    Latrenda Knighten
  • Icon for: Latrenda Knighten

    Latrenda Knighten

    Facilitator
    Mathematics Content Trainer
    May 13, 2022 | 08:50 p.m.

    Looking forward to more details!

     

    Thanks for responding and sharing!

  • May 12, 2022 | 08:55 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful work you are doing. I really like how the work provides opportunities for children to not only problem solve but also be empathetic in their practice. Excited to learn more when your data collection and analysis are complete. 

     
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    Michelle Cerrone
  • May 12, 2022 | 02:12 p.m.

    Have you guys checked out this project? or this one? Seems like engineering + empathy is a hot topic. I love the potential it has for attracting girls into engineering. If you have a second, check out the COVID companion robots our students built. We didn't really frame this in terms of empathy, but maybe we should have!

     
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    Margo Murphy
    Michelle Cerrone
  • Icon for: Jenna Kelley

    Jenna Kelley

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 16, 2022 | 02:03 p.m.

    Love the concept. Love the work you're doing. Great video! 

  • Icon for: Barbara Hopkins

    Barbara Hopkins

    Science Education Consultant
    May 16, 2022 | 11:38 p.m.

    What a great way of bringing young children into engineering!  Our youngest learners are not too young to understand and dream of becoming an engineer!  I hope you will check out our Ultra Awesome Animals production as well! The engineering challenge raised a great deal of empathy as we saw genuine concern for helping the animals in our field tests. 

  • Icon for: Julie Robinson

    Julie Robinson

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 17, 2022 | 10:11 a.m.

    What a beautiful approach to making engineering relevant and meaningful to young children! I love how this model supports social-emotional learning and really broadens children's perspectives of what engineering can do to improve lives and situations. 

     
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    Stacy Klein-Gardner
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