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Little Falls City School District’s Engineering by Design program

Little Falls City School District’s standards-based Engineering by Design program strives to build students’ resilience while developing their real-life problem-solving skills.

“Instead of asking students what they want to be when they grow up, we are asking what problem they want to solve,” says Maria Lindsay, principal of the New York district’s middle school.

The program, launched in 2012, is part of the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association’s STEM±Center. The PD component, which consists of four-day training sessions, teaches educators to integrate technical literacy through problem- and project-based learning.

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Preschoolers, for instance, focus on the life cycles of plants, butterflies and frogs, while kindergarteners examine the homes of animals and second-graders study biomimicry.

On the high school level, students learn how engineers apply knowledge to invent innovative technological products. Older students make and refine product prototypes, then discuss their experiences.

“The process they learn can be applied to anything as they are collaborating with others, finding a problem and brainstorming solutions,” says Lindsay.

Nearly 150 teachers from 70 New York school districts have been trained in the Engineering By Design curriculum, says Andrew Zaffarano, the program’s state consortium director.

Five to 10 districts join the program every year as interest in integrative STEM becomes more of a priority, especially at the elementary school level.