This narrative essay describes a project in an urban sixth grade science class that began as an effort to link civic engagement with disciplinary learning in chemistry. The ways in which students took up this project prompted the authors to see urban infrastructures as engineered sites of learning with world-making possibilities. By interrogating the ways in which science and engineering practices are imbued with values and happen in places, teachers can engage young learners in critical examinations of their built worlds. The authors argue that there is an opportunity in K-8 engineering education to avoid reproducing some of the pathologies of (post)secondary STEM education by making the ethical and political dimensions of the STEM enterprise explicit. In fact, elementary school teachers’ ability to prioritize the whole child over disciplinary norms may allow them to engage students in realistic assessments of the built world while also imagining hopeful present-futures.

Author Biography

Alejandra Frausto Aceves

Alejandra Frausto Aceves is currently working on a PhD in Learning Sciences at Northwestern University. In 17 years as an educator, she has served in various roles, including teaching science and other content areas from 6th grade through adult students in an alternative setting, working as a curriculum coach and associate principal, and leading service learning for the third largest district in the U.S. Her research interests include transformative collective [science] learning, intergenerational & community-based co- constructions, imaginations, and praxis, as well as learning and pedagogies towards expansive and agentic present-futures.

Daniel Morales-Doyle

Daniel Morales-Doyle is an associate professor of science education in the department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois Chicago. He was a high school teacher in the Chicago Public Schools for just over a decade before joining the faculty at UIC.



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