Peck's Science Specialist Authors Trailblazing Textbook for Teachers
What is the difference between a scientist and an engineer? Should there be a distinction? If not, how might the two disciplines be infused? At Peck, we have just the right expert to address these questions and to push our integrated STEAM curriculum to even greater heights.
Peck’s Lower School Science Specialist, Dr. Katheryn Kennedy, recently co-authored a trailblazing textbook for high school science teachers entitled Engineering in the Life Sciences. It is the first and only resource on the subject, and is particularly exciting because it addresses a charge put forward by the National Science Foundation’s “Project Infuse” in 2012, and then further requested in the Next Generation Science Standards established by a multi-state education consortium in 2013. That charge was to address the lack of knowledge and curriculum available to teachers to infuse engineering concepts into the science curriculum.
“This expectation that you have engineering in the classroom is new,” explains Dr. Kennedy. “Although 19 states have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards outright, and 41 states already have an engineering component somewhere in their curriculum, the majority of teachers have not had any formal training in how to integrate engineering. Most life sciences teachers are sort of starting from scratch when it comes to infusion of engineering.”
From concept to completion, the collaboration on the co-authored textbook spanned a four-year period. When the book project was conceived, Dr. Kennedy was working as the manager of professional development services at the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE) at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. She collaborated in authoring the textbook with four distinguished colleagues at well-respected science and engineering institutions around the United States.
As they worked together, they asked, “how could we select lessons and activities that would develop engineering understanding but be supportive of the science content that teachers are primarily interested in, and are tasked to deliver to their students over the course of the year.” They came up with six lessons that have an engineering component to them and represent all the biology concepts that would be present at the high school level of instruction over the course of a year.
Dr. Kennedy is already hard at work with faculty colleagues at Peck identifying opportunities to integrate engineering in alignment with Peck’s already sophisticated design classes and labs.
For example, she is working with Peck’s Lower School Spanish program, who will be making piñatas as a method of exploring Latin culture. The goal is to make sure piñata construction is not simply an arts and crafts endeavor.
For example, students will be working on increasing their skills in experimental design. They will be looking at the property of absorbency and collecting and using that data to inform their techniques in making paper mache. “So it is really informed design,” explained Dr. Kennedy. “It’s not that we are going to make this cutesy thing. The end product is going to be a piñata, but we examine the criteria that we each are using to evaluate if we made a ‘good’ piñata. Students will be thinking about engineering their piñata throughout the planning and the creation process so they have a rubric for success.”
In the months ahead, Dr. Kennedy will be appearing at several regional conferences sponsored by the National Science Teachers Association, giving presentations and authors’ sessions, in order to promote the concepts and lessons in the book.
Her expertise will certainly drive the infusion of engineering into life sciences and other subject areas at Peck, and her contributions to this trailblazing textbook will benefit academic programs and curricular development across the country and around the world.