City Technology was an outgrowth of a previous project called City Science, an NSF-funded professional development effort that engaged 75 public elementary teachers from Harlem and the South Bronx during 1992-1995. The theme of City Science was to use the urban environment as a source of material for elementary science. Components of the project were the Built Environment, the Natural Environment and the Human Environment.
Subsequently, we decided to focus our efforts on the built (or designed) environment, which consists of technological artifacts and systems. The next project was funded by the NSF from 1997-2002. We collaborated with 17 teachers, mostly veterans of City Science, in finding ways to introduce the concepts, processes and social practices of technology by focusing on familiar, everyday problems. Our goal was to expand the ordinary notion of technology to include far more than computers. The project created design activities as contexts for standards-based math, science, ELA and social studies.This project led to the publication of the Stuff that Works! series of curriculum guides, which were published in 2002 by Heinemann. Titles include: Mapping; Mechanisms & Other Systems; Designed Environments: Places., Practices & Plans; Packaging & Other Structures; and Signs, Symbols & Codes. Stuff that Works!
As a byproduct of the second project, we began exploring methods of professional development to support design technology education in the elementary grades. These efforts at preparing teachers became the basis for our third project, which was funded by the National Science Foundation from 2001-2006.We created and tested a professional development model that combines hands-on workshops with on-line forums and a project web site. Teacher workshops and classroom implementation have taken place in urban, suburban and rural school systems and science centers in: seventeen states. Students involved in the project included Native Americans and Alaskans, bilingual Latinos, inner-city African Americans and rural Appalachians. Two other outcomes included a Guide for Professional Developers and the Kids’ Page, which provides web resources for children to design simple technologies on their own.
Because engineering (as technology is now commonly called) is not a school subject in US elementary schools, it needs to be integrated with other subjects. Our current project, Physical Science Comes Alive, is an outgrowth of our previous work on mechanisms and circuits. We are developing two sets of four curriculum units each, Force & Motion and Energy Systems, distributed over the grade bands K-1, 2-3 and 4-5. These units integrate engineering, science, math, literacy and art, in the context of children designing their own toys, cards and books.