Tackling the 'E' in 'STEM'

Pamela Lottero-Perdue
Pamela Lottero-Perdue

TOWSON, Md. (December 9, 2009) - With start-up funds from the Faculty Development and Research Committee’s grant and fellowships program and a $100,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation under its Workforce One initiative, Pamela Lottero-Perdue, assistant professor in the Department of Physics, Astronomy and Geosciences, launched a research program focused on teaching engineering to elementary-aged children.

“Engineering is one of the most neglected of the STEM disciplines in the K-12 educational system,” says Lottero-Perdue, who began her career as an engineer and later taught high school level pre-college engineering before earning her Ph.D. in science education. “A lack of elementary engineering education misses opportunities to develop children’s technological literacy and to learn science and math content that is inherently connected to the study of engineering.”

Under the DLLR grant, Lottero-Perdue and her partners in Harford County Public Schools created science-technology-engineering integrated units using Engineering is Elementary (EiE) curricula developed by the National Center for Technological Literacy at the Boston Museum of Science and offered elementary educators in the district intensive professional development to teach those units. This grant, as well as additional funding through the National Dissemination through Regional Partners project for the EiE program has enabled Lottero-Perdue and her team to provide professional development to more than 30 third-grade, fourth-grade, and enrichment teachers across seven elementary schools in the district. By creating co-teaching partnerships between the enrichment and classroom teachers, participants have been supported through the learning and teaching process. Often with little to no prior exposure to engineering content and pedagogy, the partnership is a vital component of the research. Lottero-Perdue created a video of her work with Harford County Public Schools in collaboration with David Reiss, Department of Electronic Media and Film.

Lottero-Perdue’s research implements and evaluates the Engineering is Elementary (EiE) curriculum in elementary classroom settings, and, with Paz Galupo, Department of Psychology and director of the Institute for Academic Diversity and Inclusion, examines the way in which teachers experience the implementation process. With the preliminary data provided by the Harford County Public Schools experience, Lottero-Perdue hopes to pursue additional funding opportunities from the National Science Foundation or other sources to support STEM education in the future.

Currently, Lottero-Perdue is working with the National Dissemination through Regional Partners program to begin the process of teacher professional development for first- and second-grade engineering units will begin in the spring. By the end of the 2009-2010 school year, 34 classrooms of students in Harford County Public Schools will have received instruction in engineering, and Lottero-Perdue aims to help this number grow year by year in the district.

Learn more about Towson University's outreach and educational efforts related to promoting engineering education in elementary schools

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