Activity Design Principles that Support Family-Based Engineering Learning in Early Childhood

March 28th, 2022 | RESEARCH

Introducing young children to STEM is critical for cultivating early interests and understanding that ultimately contribute to broader participation in the STEM fields. However, while there is substantial research around early childhood mathematics and a growing body of literature related to early childhood science, early childhood engineering continues to be the focus of only a few studies. To address this need, we conducted a design-based research (DBR) study focused on both (b) iteratively developing and improving home-based, engineering design activities for families with preschool-age children and (b) advancing theory about strategies that support engineering design engagement for children and adult family members. Based on the analysis of videos and interviews, three overarching design principles for home-based engineering activities for young children and their families emerged: (1) present design challenges that leverage the ways families naturally orient to play and engagement with the materials, (2) include narrative contexts and supports that motivate engagement in engineering practices, including user-centered design, and (3) align the choices of narrative context, design materials, and design challenges to create an open, accessible, age-appropriate solution space.



Team Members

Scott Pattison, Author, TERC
Gina Navoa Svarovsky, Author, University of Notre Dame
Smirla Ramos-Montañez, Author, TERC
Catherine Wagner, Author, University of Notre Dame
Amy Corbett, Author, Metropolitan Family Service
Maria Eugenia Perdomo, Author, Metropolitan Family Service
Viviana López Burgos, Author, TERC
Sabrina De Los Santos, Author, TERC


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: EEC Divoision of Engineering Education and Centers
Award Number: 1930848
Funding Amount: $399,371.00

Related URLs

Head Start on Engineering Systems


Audience: Families | Learning Researchers | Museum | ISE Professionals | Pre-K Children (0-5)
Discipline: Education and learning science | Engineering
Resource Type: Conference Proceedings | Reference Materials
Environment Type: Informal | Formal Connections | Pre-K | Early Childhood Programs

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This material is supported by National Science Foundation award DRL-2229061, with previous support under DRL-1612739, DRL-1842633, DRL-1212803, and DRL-0638981. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations contained within are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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