The big myth in engineering is that engineers are born, not made. Meaning you are either destined to be an engineer due to some innate genetic makeup or you’re not. It’s romantic to think that there is some destiny pulling engineers towards their calling, but the reality is that engineering is open to everyone!
As our January Change Maker Avery Layne put it “You don’t have to be a straight A student to be an engineer!”
It’s our job to create welcoming experiences where students feel like they belong! If you’re on board with this idea, here are some things you can do to create inclusive engineering experiences for all students.
1. Do Engineering Activities
Challenge students with open-ended activities that are based on the engineering design process, as this is principally a student-led learning experience. Each step along the way is an opportunity for a child to direct their own learning and gain confidence.
2. Involve Everyone
Look for opportunities to talk to the quiet or hesitant students. A great time is when students are working on their projects, and you can ask questions about their ideas and designs.
3. Be Curious and Respectful
Every child has different perspectives and experiences. As you are asking questions and listening, find ways to acknowledge and validate students by providing constructive, specific, and encouraging feedback.
4. Acknowledge Achievements
Kids are experts in identifying and ignoring obvious cheerleading. Meaningful feedback that recognizes their effort and ideas will help build a connection and their confidence.
5. Be Aware of Hidden Struggles
Kids are masterful at hiding their differences and struggles. No one wants to be in the spotlight for something that indicates they are not part of the crowd. Whether it’s a hidden disability or they are struggling with an academic concept, it’s important to remember that we’re experiencing things differently.
6. Be Student-Centered
Resist the urge to fix a team’s design or give them specific instructions on how to get the right answer. When students drive their learning, they are more motivated and engaged.
By creating engineering experiences that welcome and include everyone we can all do our part in debunking the big myth that engineers are born, not made.
If you want to learn more, visit our Creating Inclusive STEM Experiences page on DiscoverE.org.