Boston Children’s Museum Awarded National Science Foundation Grant

Grant Will Enable the Museum to Explore the Effects of Introducing Integrated Engineering and Empathy Activities to Young Children

Boston Children’s Museum has received a $342,000 two-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Research in the Formation of Engineers program. This grant, entitled Design and Development: Engineering and Empathy Pre-K/K, will support development and research of activities for prekindergarten (pre-K) and kindergarten (K) classrooms that integrate engineering and empathy.

Professional engineers are required to solve highly complicated problems. When they are designing solutions—creating a better wheelchair or rebuilding a city after a natural disaster–it is critical that they are able to exhibit empathy.

Organizations such as the National Academy of Engineers (NAE) and NSF are increasingly highlighting the need for engineers to bring multi-faceted perspectives to their work. Future engineers must have the ability to understand the needs, wants, and perspectives of others—in short, engineers need to have a capacity for empathy. Research around integration of empathy and engineering is happening at the college level, but children build the foundations for learning to exhibit empathy between the ages of four and six. This project will allow the Museum to create materials to introduce these concepts in early education classrooms and conduct research to understand the effects.

“Part of the mission of the STEAM team at Boston Children’s Museum is to help young children develop foundational STEAM skills through fun, interesting, and innovative activities,” said Melissa Higgins, Senior Director of STEAM at the Museum and Principal Investigator for this grant. “This grant will allow us to explore the impacts of introducing integrated engineering and empathy activities at an age where this concept has yet to be investigated. We’re honored to have received the grant and excited to explore this novel approach to engaging young learners in engineering.”

Boston Children’s Museum will partner with researchers at Education Development Center|Center for Children and Technology (EDC) and local Boston prekindergarten/kindergarten classroom teachers throughout this project. “We’re delighted to be partnering with Boston Children’s Museum on this exciting work,” said Michelle Cerrone, lead researcher for this project at EDC. “It provides a terrific opportunity to establish what’s possible when engineering is paired with empathy in early learning environments. A key outcome will be a set of principles for designing engineering and empathy activities that can be easily adapted to fit the needs of individual early childhood classrooms.”

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The ah-hah moment of STEAM activity at Boston Children’s Museum

Part of the mission of the STEAM team at Boston Children’s Museum is to help young children develop foundational STEAM skills through fun, interesting, and innovative activities