Recently our research team had the opportunity to attend the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) conference in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. Engineering in education was a big part of the conversation, and with the NGSS newly released and our upcoming engineering connections, we couldn’t resist sharing their thoughts.
What do you picture when you hear the word scientist or engineer? Crazy hair, glasses, and perhaps a lab coat loosely hung on scrawny shoulders for the former; blue overalls with a hardhat and a wrench in hand for the later. Needless to say, our students often have “mediasized” images of two of the vital-to-the-nation’s-success careers. When students are asked to draw one of these professionals, stereotypes quickly appear – students almost never draw themselves. Could it be because they do not picture themselves in a lab coat with crazy hair? Presenters at NARST saw things a little differently: we need to teach students that they to can be engineers and scientists. Racially diverse role models with a focus on making science and engineering cool would make a huge difference in attracting students. Even more important, students need to actually experience science and engineering in the classroom so that the fields feel approachable and fun.