February 1, 2004
Between May 2003 and January 2004, Education Development Center's Center for Children and Technology (CCT) undertook a formative evaluation of Design and Discovery, a hands-on, project-based design and engineering curriculum being disseminated as part of the Intel Innovation in Education initiatives. The Design and Discovery curriculum invites 11- to 14-year-olds to explore engineering by engaging in handson design activities. The curriculum's goals are to build young people's knowledge of engineering, design and science, to support the development of their inquiry skills, and to involve them in sustained problem solving. Design and Discovery was created in part to serve as a preparatory experience for young people interested in participating in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a major competition for pre-college students that Intel sponsors.
This formative evaluation was guided by the following four main goals:
- Explore whether and how the core activities and concepts of the Design and Discovery curriculum are communicated and carried out with young people in a range of programmatic settings.
- Determine whether and how available resources, training experiences, and/or local contextual factors support or impede program coordinators' choices about how to implement the curriculum, and their ability to implement it effectively.
- Explore, to the extent possible given levels of program implementation, how engaged young people are by the curriculum's core concepts and activities; and whether this experience sparks participants' interest in further exploring science and engineering.
- Gather lessons learned regarding implementation and support strategies from other recent efforts to support science and engineering learning in informal learning environments through delivery of curriculum and training. A separate report has been prepared addressing this goal, so this topic is not addressed in this report.
Key findings from this evaluation include the following:
- Of the 38 sites (36 Girl Scout councils and two other sites) included in this study, eight had completed an implementation by the conclusion of the evaluation period; 21 had begun or were just about to begin an implementation; and nine were still developing plans for a Spring or Summer 2004 implementation.
- Of the 29 sites included in this study that had planned for, begun, or completed an implementation of this curriculum, slightly less than half (13) used the entire curriculum and maintained a focus on the design process throughout their program. Most but not all of these implementations are happening in two-week summer camp settings. Experience or local resources have helped the facilitators of these camps recognize the importance of the design process to the goals of this curriculum and offer a program that is designed to support that process.
- The remaining 16 of these 29 sites are using portions of the curriculum, in camp, long-term workshop or course-type structures. These sites typically engage their participants in a range of hands-on activities drawn from the curriculum. Facilitators of these programs are generally seeking to increase their participants' general awareness of science and science-related careers and do not choose to emphasize the design process Design and Discovery seeks to support.
- Local facilitators who chose not to implement the entire curriculum did so because of a number of challenges they encountered or anticipated. The primary challenge was securing adequate access to content experts who could either help facilitate a local program or act as mentors to participants. Other challenges included a perception that the curriculum was too difficult for the populations youth facilitators serve, did not match goals of existing local programs, or required more time 45 hours than available.
- Implementations that were most consistent with the intent of Design and Discovery were carried out in settings where:
- Programs were at least two weeks long.
- Facilitators recruited participants from the intended age group and with a pre-existing interest in science and/or engineering.
- Facilitators had enough prior experience leading project-based curricula to maintain a leadership role during the implementation.
- Facilitators had access to multiple individuals with relevant content expertise to support implementation and act as mentors to participants.
- Facilitators were familiar enough with science fairs to understand how to link the design process featured in this curriculum to the requirements of a science fair, and to support their participants in moving from one experience to the next.