Engineering solar energy in the fourth grade science classroom

Christina Hobson Foster, Jenefer Husman, Christine Mendoza

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


The National Academy of Engineering has called for the integration of engineering into K-12 science curriculum in order to improve student achievement and motivation in science and mathematics. Further, a framework for the Next Generation Science Standards is set to be released which will challenge K-12 schools to align the learning of content with scientific and engineering practice. Teachers will need to be supported in implementing curricula, pedagogy, and assessments for the teaching of integrated science and engineering around core content areas, including energy topics. This engineering solar energy research project aims to address this momentum towards integrated classroom learning of science and engineering by supporting a fourth grade educator from a local Southwest elementary school with learning experiences that will help develop capacity in integrating engineering into the science class, specifically by implementing an engineering design project on solar energy. This work is in the beginning stages of a design research methodology, in which an instructional model for integrating engineering into the elementary science classroom and its support curriculum will be repeatedly documented, analyzed, and revised In Spring 2012, a solar engineering design challenge was introduced in the fourth grade classroom. A researcher from the Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) worked alongside the fourth grade educator to provide in-classroom professional development to introduce the engineering design challenge to the students using modeling, whiteboarding, and the engineering design process as instructional techniques. This learning experience took place during science classroom time for a period of two and a half weeks with 24 students. Reflections were collected from the researcher and teacher throughout the process in order to revise and extend the learning experience for the following school year. Revisions were made to emphasize the iterative, systematic nature of the engineering design process and to enhance student learning of energy transfer. Further, the learning experience was expanded to include an electrical circuits component. In September and October 2012, researchers provided the same fourth grade educator with five weeks of in-classroom professional development during science classroom time to introduce the revised and extended solar engineering design challenge. The educator and 24 students again experienced for themselves engineering design projects, learned about the engineering design process, and learned about energy concepts, specifically, electricity, electrical circuits, and renewable energy through hands-on experiences. Data from this iteration will be presented in this paper. The research team found that the learning experiences resulted in enhanced knowledge of energy-related content. Pre- And post- content knowledge assessment on solar energy topics was used for this measure. Adaptive goals for learning science content was not found to be statistically significant different. The curriculum will be revised for classroom structures for student learning that value hands-on exploration of science and engineering concepts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2013
Event120th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Atlanta, GA, United States
Duration: Jun 23 2013Jun 26 2013


Other120th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAtlanta, GA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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