The 2021/2022 school year marked the end of classroom testing for the Museum’s Engineering and Empathy in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten project (E2K2), an NSF-funded design and development project. E2K2 is a partnership between Boston Children’s Museum, the Education Development Center, and Boston-area pre-K and K classrooms, intended to support pre-K and K educators in engaging their students in engineering experiences that support empathy development. Applying a design-based research approach, the team worked in close collaboration with project stakeholders (e.g., teachers, curriculum directors, instructional coaches) to design and test integrated engineering and empathy activities and associated teacher professional development.
At its core, engineering is one way that humans design things and solve problems. Being able to exhibit empathy—to take the perspective of another or put yourself in their shoes—is an important facet of engineering. Whether engineers are creating school buildings, medicines, or space shuttles, their designs benefit from thinking carefully about the needs of the people who will use them.
Findings from this project include that while the pairing of engineering and empathy was new to teachers, work on this project increased teacher perceptions of their own knowledge of the content, and efficacy around supporting children in engineering activities, empathy experiences, and integrated engineering and empathy activities. Participating teachers also noted they felt the activities helped support students’ engineering and empathy skills, and that students were able to work collaboratively to design and discuss solutions as a result of engaging in the activities. The E2K2 team will continue offering professional development workshops related to this project, helping to share these activities with additional schools in the area.