Science centres and museums as champions in engineering education

Why is engineering education an important topic? What is the role of Science Centres and museums in introducing engineering in schools? How can engineer projects help creating partnerships with policy makers and industries and what are the benefits? How can we introduce engineering education at a national level?

Over 55 persons attended the event “Science centres and museums as champions in engineering education” organized during the Ecsite Annual Conference on May 21st. Hosted by the headquarters of Shell Netherlands, the event attracted science museum directors and policy makers from over 20 countries.

Facing a growing demand of engineers and a declining number of students interested in such careers, it is essential for Science Centres, museums, industries and policy makers to meet and discuss innovative ways of introducing engineering in schools. With the examples of initiatives taken by Shell Netherlands and science centres and museums in Europe and the United States, the event allowed to show how stakeholders can work together to make change happen.

Since 2003, Boston’s Museum of Science runs ‘Engineering is Elementary’. The program supports educators and children with curricula and professional development that develop engineering literacy. It is now widely spread in primary schools throughout the United States. With these 11 years of experience, Ioannis Miaoulis, President and Director of the Museum of Science, confirmed that the program increased students and teachers’ interest in science and engineering. Building on the proven impacts of the American program, Maya Halevy, Executive Director of the Bloomfield Science Museum Jerusalem in Israel, coordinated a project at European level, aiming at supporting the widespread adoption of innovative methods of science teaching. The project already trained over 1,000 teachers, and developed school/museum activities that will reach 27,000 students before the end of the project in 2014. As well as other partners of the Engineer project, Michiel Buchel, Director General of Science Centre NEMO in Amsterdam plans to further develop the materials of engineering and develop strategic partnerships with many stakeholders in The Netherlands. Together, they aim at innovating STEM education and reach out to schools all over the Netherlands.

In all countries involved in Europe, the project created opportunities for Science Centres to respond to the need of introducing pupils to engineering methods, and spread new ways to teach science. It also boosted new dynamics between industries, schools, policy makers and science centres.

Links:

Engineer is elementary

Shell social investment

Nemo Science Centre, Amsterdam

Museum of Science, Boston

Bloomfield Science Museum, Jerusalem