By engaging in engineering design activities, children have the opportunity to bring together scientific and mathematical concepts to solve real world problems. However, sustaining children’s interest in engineering can be a challenge. Some students lack opportunities to learn about engineering in the first place; a 2010 report found that only 10% of K-12 students were exposed to engineering in school (National Academy of Engineering, 2010). For those students who are exposed to engineering, interest and participation can decrease if they do not receive continued exposure and support (Paulsen, 2013). Museums, makerspaces, and caregivers can all play an important role in sustaining children’s interest in engineering and provide opportunities for meaningful engagement with engineering activities, but they need accessible and innovative tools to do so. That’s where Design Squad Maker can help.
Design Squad Maker is an engineering design program created by teams from GBH Boston and the New York Hall of Science. Design Squad Maker seeks to engage children in engineering design activities across different settings and over time. Together, children ages 8-11 and their caregivers come up with problems that they want to solve, brainstorm solutions, build prototypes, and test them to see how they work—engaging in the same steps that engineers use to solve real-world problems. Design Squad Maker was rigorously researched and created using a highly iterative development process to ensure the resources meet the needs of makerspaces, museums and families.
The Design Squad Maker toolkit is a suite of free resources designed for children, caregivers, and makerspaces. The toolkit includes:
- Workshops. These are a central component of Design Squad Maker. During the 90-minute workshop, facilitators introduce the design process to children ages 8-11 and their families. Facilitators can choose one of the four themed design challenges, or they can create their own custom challenge using a provided template.
- Design Squad Maker App. During the workshop, families are introduced to the app which guides children through the steps of the design process. The app helps children identify the problems that matter to them, develop engineering solutions and document the process using the app’s notebook feature. At the end of the workshop, families are encouraged to use the app at home to finish their design project, start a new one, or do a quick activity.
- Take-Home Materials. Families leave the workshop with handouts that enable them to continue designing at home. A tips sheet provides information about the benefits of engineering design, ways to support children when they get frustrated, and suggestions for involving the whole family. An activity booklet helps families find the space, materials and time they need to keep making at home.
The Design Squad Maker toolkit is available for free at PBS LearningMedia. The free Design Squad Maker app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Want to learn more? Check out the webinar recording below to join GBH Boston and ASTC in exploring Design Squad Maker resources and covering some frequently asked questions.