The National Science Foundation coined the term STEM in the 1990s as a shorthand way to express the impor- tance of science, technology, engineering, and math to future prosperity. But until
recently, K– 12 educators gave relatively little attention
to the E in STEM.
Engineering may soon be receiving its due. The
new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead
States, 2013) make it a national priority to help U.S.
students understand the human-made (that is to say,
engineered) world in which we live. Many states have
also modified their standards to integrate engineering
But as educators introduce engineering into elementary, middle, and high school classrooms, they
face a challenge: how to design educational experiences that are engaging and effective for all students.
Making engineering instruction more inclusive is
important because women and minorities are dispro-
portionately underrepresented in engineering fields
in the United States. Most schools have a way to go in
terms of inviting everyone into the field.
For example, school-based engineering activities
traditionally highlight competitive, decontextualized
projects—which fail to attract students who value
cooperative work and real-world tasks. Engineering
challenges that demonstrate how engineering can help
people or society would engage a wider group.
So how do we get to inclusivity?
Six Principles for Inviting Everyone
Curriculum developers associated with the Museum
of Science, Boston have identified six design principles that educators can use to ensure that classroom
instruction, activities, and materials in engineering
engage all students—including students from underrepresented and underperforming populations. We
As schools introduce more engineering activities, six principles
will help girls and minority students embrace the E in STEM.
Christine M. Cunningham and Melissa Higgins