Full Scale Development: Collaborative Research–Using Narrative in a Digital Learning Environment to Engage Children and Teens in Engineering

September 1st, 2012 - August 31st, 2017 | PROJECT

This full scale research and development collaborative project between Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College improves technical literacy for children in the area of engineering education through the Through My Window learning environment. The instructional design of the learning environment results from the application of innovative educational approaches based on research in the learning sciences—Egan's Imaginative Education (IE) and Knowledge Building (KB). The project provides idea-centered engineering curriculum that facilitates deep learning of engineering concepts through the use of developmentally appropriate narrative and interactive multimedia via interactive forums and blogs, young adult novels (audio and text with English and Spanish versions), eight extensive tie-in activities, an offline teachers’ curriculum guide, and social network connections and electronic portfolios. Targeting traditionally underrepresented groups in engineering—especially girls—the overarching goals of the project are improving attitudes toward engineering; providing a deeper understanding of what engineering is about; supporting the development of specific engineering skills; and increasing interest in engineering careers. The project will address the following research questions: What is the quality of the knowledge building discourse? Does it get better over time? Will students, given the opportunity, extend the discourse to new areas? What scaffolding does the learning environment need to support novice participants in this discourse? Does the use of narrative influence participation in knowledge building? Are certain types of narratives more effective in influencing participation in knowledge building? Evaluative feedback for usability, value effectiveness, and ease of implementation from informal educators and leaders from the Connecticut After School Network CTASN) will be included. The evaluation will include documentation on the impact of narrative and multimedia tools in the area of engineering education. Currently, there is very little research regarding children and young teen engagement in engineering education activities using narrative as a structure to facilitate learning engineering concepts and principles. The research and activities developed from this proposed project contributes to the field of Informal Science and Engineering Education. The results from this project could impact upper elementary and middle-school aged children and members from underrepresented communities and girls in a positive way.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

2014 Poster - Through My Window
2016 Poster - Through My Window
Video - Using Narrative to Engage Children and Teens in Engineering
Through My Window Vignette: East Longmeadow
Through My Window Vignette: Astoria

Team Members

Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, Principal Investigator, Springfield Technical Community College
Glenn Ellis, Principal Investigator, Smith College
Alan Rudnitsky, Co-Principal Investigator, Smith College
Isabel Huff, Project Staff, Springfield Technical Community College


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 1223460
Funding Amount: 715335

Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 1223868
Funding Amount: 1084590


Access and Inclusion: English Language Learners | Ethnic | Racial | Hispanic | Latinx Communities | Women and Girls
Audience: Educators | Teachers | Elementary School Children (6-10) | Families | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Parents | Caregivers | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Education and learning science | Engineering
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Afterschool Programs | Comics | Books | Newspapers | Informal | Formal Connections | K-12 Programs | Library Programs | Media and Technology | Museum and Science Center Programs | Public Programs | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media