Published: July 2, 2014

June 22-27, the CU Boulder School of Education hosted over 750 scholars and graduate students from all over the world for the International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS). Chaired this year by Professors Bill Penuel, Susan Jurow, and Kevin O’Connor, the conference has been held biannually for over 20 years in places such as Australia and the Netherlands as well as throughout the United States.

Among a week full of cutting-edge learning research, theory, and design, researchers offered unique hands-on experiences in “design charrette” sessions in which participants brainstormed, problem-solved, and created solutions to unique problems. In a session offered by Professor Vicki Hand (CU Boulder), Leilah Lyons (University of Illinois at Chicago), Chrystalla Mouza (University of Delaware), and Elizabeth Walsh (San José State), adult learning scientists and rising high school freshmen invented unique middle-school level learning experiences about climate change. In another design charrette session, Professor Gary Natriello and Hui Soo Chae, both of Teachers College at Columbia University, led participants in creating functional learning spaces.

“It was incredible to watch the high school students draw on a range of resources, including share-able apps and a ‘gaming’ approach, to develop tools for adolescents to take action on issues of climate change," said Hand. "The adult participants–from museum directors to climate scientists–were able to take on a youth perspective, while at the same time pressing on the students’ ideas through scientific principles and real world constraints.” 

Kris Gutiérrez, Lisa Schwartz, and Daniela DiGiacomo, all of the CU Boulder School of Education, offered innovative approaches to promoting equity in STEM education through a new movement called “Making and Tinkering,” in which students tackle hands-on engineering problems and design their own solutions. Locally, Gutiérrez and Schwartz lead Making and Tinkering programs annually with CU undergraduates and students from Casey Middle School in Boulder. Gutiérrez also designed and directs the weekly El Pueblo Mágico after-school program at Sánchez Elementary School in Lafayette.

"Our Making and Tinkering programs provide a space for CU undergraduates to put learning theory into practice through collaborative activities with Casey and Sánchez students. These programs support undergraduates and children in working together to leverage their everyday knowledge and interests through robust and creative STEM activities,” Schwartz said.

Eve Manz, CU Boulder Professor of Science Education, won the Best Paper Award at the conference for her article, "'Mangling' Science Instruction: Creating Resistances to Support the Development of Practices and Content Knowledge." DiGiacomo, a doctoral student in the Educational Psychology and Learning Sciences program, was one of five finalists for the Best Student Paper Award for her paper, “Learning and Becoming in an After-School Program: The Relationship as a Tool for Equity within the Practices of Making and Tinkering.”








Design charrette workshop participants share a model they built for a learning space that allows for effective technology integration, group collaboration, experiential learning and student-led presentations.

Read this story as it appeared on the CU Boulder website.

Related Faculty: William Penuel, Susan Jurow, Kevin O'Connor, Victoria Hand, Daniela DiGiacomo