Using Computational Modeling to Integrate Science and Engineering Curricular Activities


McElhaney, K. W., Zhang, N., Basu, S., McBride, E., Biswas, G., & Chiu, J. L. (2020). Using computational modeling to integrate science and engineering curricular activities. In M. Gresalfi & I.S. Horn (Eds.). The Interdisciplinarity of the Learning Sciences, 14th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2020, Volume 3 (pp. 1357-1364). International Society of the Learning Sciences, Nashville, TN, United States.


We articulate a framework for using computational modeling to coherently integrate the design of science and engineering curricular experiences. We describe how this framework informs the design of the Water Runoff Challenge (WRC), a multi-week curriculum unit and modeling environment that integrates Earth science, engineering, and computational modeling for upper elementary and lower middle school students. In the WRC, students develop conceptual and computational models of surface water runoff, then use simulations incorporating their models to develop, test, and optimize solutions to the runoff problem. We conducted a classroom pilot study where we collected students’ learning artifacts and data logged from their use of the computational environment. We illustrate opportunities students had to integrate science, engineering, and computational thinking during the unit in a pair of contrasting vignettes.

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