Exploring Young Children’s Understanding About the Concept of Volume Through Engineering Design in a STEM Activity: A Case Study

Abstract

This case study explores young children’s understanding and application of the concept of volume through the practices of engineering design in a STEM activity. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. However, engineering stands out as a challenging area to implement. In addition, most early engineering education research centers on curriculum and instruction rather than students’ understanding and application of models and content knowledge to a design project (Johri and Olds, Journal of Engineering Education, 100(1):151–185, 2011). For this study, we created a play-based STEM activity which helps students understand and apply the concept of volume in creating clay boats through the practices of engineering design. Three students voluntarily participated in this study. Data sources included interviews, photocopies of boats, and observation field notes which were analyzed using a comprehensive cross-case analysis. Findings indicate that the common pattern is rather intuitive when students define engineering problems using different criteria. Also, students’ solutions to engineering problems are associated with their experiential ideas of reality. How students express their understanding of volume is correlated to the way of their structuring volume. Lastly, students understand the concept of volume gradually while going through the practices of engineering design. Implications are discussed in terms of how engineering education contributes to students’ understanding of volume.

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Correspondence to Do-Yong Park.

Appendix

Appendix

Rubric of understanding of the concept of volume

Beginning Transitional Fully developed
Children provide poor understanding and perception-based understanding that offers naive and perceptional explanation about their boats. Explanation is not clear how the volume is constituted, and how the length, width, and height are related to form the volume of an object. The explanation of its application to real-life situations is rudimentary. They are not able to explain how other impacting factors are related, e.g., shape, physical properties, mass, hollowness, and openness of a boat. Children provide relation-based understanding that offers perceptional explanation as well as related similar cases of the object. They explain the volume correctly but incoherently. They know the length, width, and height but do not know how they are related to form the volume of a boat. The application to real-life situations is not coherent. They are able to partially explain how other factors are related, e.g., shape and physical properties of a boat. Children provide conceptual understanding and are able to explain what the volume is, and how the length, width, and height are related to form the volume of an object. They apply the concept to the boat that is constructed with concept-based explanation. They are able to fully explain how other impacting factors are related, e.g., shape and physical properties of a boat.

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Park, D., Park, M. & Bates, A.B. Exploring Young Children’s Understanding About the Concept of Volume Through Engineering Design in a STEM Activity: A Case Study. Int J of Sci and Math Educ 16, 275–294 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10763-016-9776-0

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Keywords

  • Engineering design
  • Engineering education
  • STEM
  • Young children
  • Volume