Teachers and Boeing Engineers Create NGSS-Aligned Lessons for Grades 4-8

Airplane maker Boeing has teamed up with online community Teaching Channel to create and distribute 10 science and innovation curriculum modules that meet Next Generation Science Standards. The modules were created by teachers in grades 4-8, each of whom were teamed up with a Boeing engineer. All focus on design challenges, such as tuning blade design to optimize a wind turbine, developing a glider payload to support a mobile camera and adapting a skateboard to absorb maximum energy on impact.

Each module is intended to cover two weeks of classroom time and emphasize engineering design thinking and problem-based learning.

The teams didn't go into their work unprepared. Before the work began in 2014, both the teachers and the engineers were trained by learning scientists at the University of Washington's Institute for Science and Math Education. The institute also created a design template used by participants to support development of the curriculum to align to standards and current research on science learning and teaching.

The resulting content was tested out in the classroom by the teachers themselves in Puget Sound and Houston. In 2015 a second group of teachers taught the lessons and gave feedback for improving the modules. Science experts from Teaching Channel and other organizations were also brought in to evaluate the modules and ensure alignment with the NGSS standards.

In a recent Teaching Channel blog article describing the modules, Kate Cook Whitt, an assistant professor of education at Thomas College in Maine, described the evolution the lessons went through to better fit the science standards. For example, a module called "Soft Landing," started with a somewhat traditional egg drop challenge.

"Although the original design challenge was centered on the authentic problem of protecting an astronaut during landing, the students didn't spend much time thinking about or developing questions around this authentic problem," Cook Whitt wrote. Eventually, she noted, the curriculum underwent multiple forms of revision to better address performance expectations and support student learning.

Teaching Channel has also developed companion videos for lessons within many of the units. The purpose of those is to show teachers how to shift their instructional practices to help students gain an understanding of engineering practice and the design mindset.

The curriculum, including the videos, is available on the Teaching Channel website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.