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$450,000 to help school teachers teach engineering

National Science Foundation grant will pair school teachers and UND researchers to design engineering tasks

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UND researchers are part of a project, funded by a three-year, $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, to help North Dakota elementary and middle school teachers design and implement engineering tasks in the classroom that are culturally relevant for American Indian and rural students.

The project is in partnership with the Northeast Education Services Cooperative.

Project ExCEED (Exploring Culturally relevant Engineering Education Design) will include teachers from the Devils Lake, Mount Pleasant-Rolla and Rolette school districts. They will take part in hands-on summer workshops to get experience and understanding of the engineering design process, culturally relevant instruction methods, and learn to incorporate both into their classrooms, whether they are teaching science and math or English and history. Workshops will be held in summer 2021.

“Engineering design is problem-solving, and an essential part of that is considering the culture and needs of the people involved,” said Frank Bowman, associate professor and chair of UND chemical engineering and one of the grant collaborators. “This project will prepare teachers to share the excitement of engineering problem-solving through design tasks that are directly relevant to the students in their classrooms. We are thrilled to be working with our community and school partners to better support Native American and rural students here in North Dakota.”

During the school year, and with guidance from the project team, teachers will develop lesson plans for engineering design tasks tailored to their classrooms, curriculum requirements and community culture. Cultural relevancy is a key focus of the project. The classroom engineering tasks, especially those developed to be specifically relevant to Native American and rural student populations, will be promoted and made available to other teachers across the state and nation.

The goal is for teachers to create engineering design tasks and use teaching practices that are relevant to and support students across a breadth of cultural communities and groups, with a special focus on Native American tribes.

Throughout the project, the research team will  study the effectiveness of the professional development program. As the initial cohort of teachers become more comfortable with the skills they are learning, they will take on a mentorship role, guiding a second group of teachers through the program in the following year. A key goal of the project is to foster a collaborative network of teachers within and across school districts that can continue to support one another.

UND researchers taking part in the project include Bowman; Julie Robinson, assistant professor of teaching & leadership, and Bethany Klemetsrud, assistant professor of chemical engineering. The project team also includes Erin Lacina, director of professional learning and operations at the Northeast Education Services Cooperative, one of seven regional education associations in North Dakota.