Dream Big: Engineering Wonders of the World has had the ASCE community talking since its broad announcement at the 2015 Convention. At the Dream Big Educational Symposium, the conversation widened to other engineering societies’ leaders and science museum professionals from around the country, discussing ways to take advantage of the film as a recruiting tool for the profession.
The MacGillivray Freeman film, in partnership with ASCE and presented by Bechtel Corporation, debuts in February 2017 on IMAX and other giant screens nationwide.
“This symposium is really just the beginning of us thinking together,” Peter Weinstein, of Mindful Solutions Inc., told the audience of nearly 100 at the mid-November event in Washington, D.C.
Weinstein’s team is creating a menu of educational programs tailored for students and families to enhance the ideas and concepts shown in the Dream Big film. The package will include engineering activities for informal education spaces such as museums, libraries, and after-school groups, as well as lesson plans that align with the Next Generation Science Standards for teaching science and engineering from kindergarten through high school.
After months of in-house work, the symposium allowed the Dream Big team to test some ideas for activities — with participants getting hands-on — and provide some feedback.
“We’ve been voraciously collecting feedback from the breakout tables and discussion groups,” Weinstein said. “We’re going to take all that and aggregate all the feedback, and see what’s new and innovative, and see where the consensus is about what’s really needed and what’s going to be most useful.”
The combination of an awe-inspiring movie and a comprehensive outreach and teaching package will be an unprecedented means of sparking a passion for engineering in young students.
“I’m in love with the idea,” said Chaka Jaliwa, outreach coordinator at the California Science Center. “Getting engineering in the classroom, getting students interested in it at an early age is what I want to be doing with my time, so I love this idea.
“If you go to an IMAX movie and you see kids, they are always reaching for things and going, ‘Whoa! That’s so big!’ That awe is what you seek to inspire in children because that means something has connected or something has been sparked inside of them and they want to see more, they want to know more, they want to learn more.”
Jessica Mata is in charge of teacher professional development at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, in San Diego. She said a lot of the support she provides teachers is in regard to engineering.
“I know that teachers really struggle with finding ways to connect engineering to their students because it’s not something that most elementary educators are very familiar with,” Mata said. “They want to introduce it to their students but they’re not really sure how. I think with this film coming out you’re going to see a huge number of teachers bringing their students and connecting it back to their classroom.”
Much of the feedback from the symposium group centered on adaptability – how to make the activities fit different age groups and learning styles, how to feature as many different kinds of engineering as possible, how to make the film and the programming especially attractive to girls and other population groups traditionally underrepresented in the engineering world.
“If we can capture underrepresented groups, then I think it’s going to be able to stimulate and motivate more students to go and watch the film,” said Martha Pelayo, director of special projects for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. “They want to see people they can relate to. They want to see themselves up there.
“I think it’s an incredible project. This is an incredible opportunity to motivate students from across different educational backgrounds.”
The symposium group was treated to an extended trailer of the film, including a new segment shot in Haiti. Currently, MacGillivray Freeman continues location filming as it revises the script in consultation with ASCE.
Symposium feedback will inform the project’s development, both the film and its educational materials. “We’re going to convene a working committee from this group to keep advising us,” Weinstein said. “And [Mindful Solutions is] going to start developing these tools to release with the film.”