The Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) is dedicated to bringing playful engineering-based learning into K-16 schools for all students. They do this best by identifying and empowering maverick teachers in both formal and informal education environments and acting as a bridge between the knowledge gained by research in Learning Sciences and the practitioners in the classroom, helping teachers leverage research to improve student learning.
The approach in this proposal builds on this strength: identifying, supporting, and co-developing with partners. Tufts CEEO will work with educators to find effective ways of bringing playful engineering-based learning into post-COVID classrooms. They will tackle multiple challenges:
- Teachers are exhausted from shouldering the burden of COVID learning adaptations.
- Playful and Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths -based learning are in danger of being minimized or eliminated as core academic subjects are prioritized with concerns about learning loss and standardized assessments.
- The social emotional well-being of students has been disrupted by major pandemic factors (loss, physical isolation, financial instability) as well as lesser structure (loss of group work and collaboration in school, informal learning time and cross-age interactions).
With this grant, Tufts CEEO will build a collaboration with local education organizations with missions aligned with playful learning, innovative approaches to learning, and aligned to Tufts’ fundamental belief in empowering teachers and students and letting them drive their own learning. Local organizations with established community relationships are essential to bring playful engineering-based learning to students and teachers in this complicated post-COVID educational landscape where schools are juggling competing priorities. Tufts will center local organizations, their communities, their requirements and constraints and the work they are already doing to advance playful engineering-based learning. Tufts and advisors will work to support these local organizations in building capacity through co-creating locally responsive resources in the form of training for formal and informal educators, activities/curricula, and more. The approach will prioritize social emotional components integrated with team-based hands-on playful engineering activities that are grounded in local communities’ assets and priorities; and will be agile to respond to the changing needs of learning being remote, in-person or hybrid.
The result of this collaboration will be direct impact on students and families, improved organizational resources to support sustainability and impact in schools and community centers and an open-source library of resources for other organizations. This work will support teachers and students from many different cultures, giving different cultural viewpoints into how LtP can empower students and teachers.
Community based organizations and educators become stronger advocates for LtP and able to integrate Playful Engineering-Based Learning to enhance the skills of children.
- CEEO will identify and fund a LtP Fellow (50-100% time for a year) from within each partner organization. That person will connect the CEEO with the partner program, acting as a conduit to advance playful engineering.
- CEEO is available to provide professional development, co-designed activities, tools, and just-in-time support to each of the partners, depending on their needs. CEEO will also help leverage the engineering education research that has already been done to address unique issues the partners find. CEEO will meet monthly with all the Fellows, sharing ideas, successes and failures.
- Partners (with CEEO support) will develop a virtual community of teachers, with a gallery of student ideas and inventions.
- CEEO will conduct minimum one site visit (travel permitting) to share ideas around the most effective ways of sustaining the changes that these partners catalyzed in the last 10 months.
- CEEO will bring fellows together virtually to exchange learnings and best practice.
Improved organizational resources to support sustainability and impact in schools and promote LtP at multiple levels.
- CEEO will curate an open-source library of resources providing a range of culturally different guidance and tools for educators on how LtP can empower students and teachers.
- CEEO will work to capture and amplify the stories from local organizations and the youth and educators they engage. In the form of written and video case studies, these narratives will individually support local organizations in raising their profile with local industry, private donors and government officials.
- CEEO will use the collection of stories to influence policymakers and global industries about the power of locally developed and sustained solutions for playful engineering-based learning