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  • Elizabeth Barrett-Zahn

Welcome to 2021!

We welcome this new year with open arms, hope, and optimism for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we begin to return toward normal life, there is much to reflect upon about this challenging year. With science playing such an essential role in the develop- ment of vaccines to defeat the Coronavirus, we shall hopefully appreciate science’s crucial role in our interconnected world and fundamental role in our education systems. Equally important will be the job of engineer- ing in designing solutions for mass production, transportation, and ad- ministration of vaccines for all. As we embark on this massive engineering feat of global distribution and vaccination, engineering—the focus of our January/February issue—will be in the spotlight.

With National Engineering Week celebrated February 16–22, we offer a host of ideas, strategies, and options for opportunities for students in PreK to grade 5 to extend their abil- ity to define and delimit engineering problems, develop possible solutions, and optimize their design solutions, as part of engineering design processes (EDP). I also invite you to view the newly released Framework for P–12 Engineering Learning jointly developed by the Advancing Excellence in P-12 Engineering Education (AE3) Research Collaborative and the American Society for Engineer- ing Education (ASEE) at https:// Providing opportunities to ignite the inner engineer can spark interest in STEM, especially in non-dominant or marginalized groups, i.e., girls, second language learners, Black, Indigenous, and people of color. When we affirm the natural engineer in all children, we also tap into essential 21st century skills of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication as students grapple with multi-dimensional, real-world issues.

Enabling students to engage in engineering opportunities can unleash hidden talents and gifts that students may not even be aware they have. Engineering values multiple modes of expression where students are presented with something to solve or improve, and the answers or solutions are usually not straightforward or “one and done” type responses. Engineering re- quires levels of engagement and perseverance, and allows divergent thinkers to have a place—often a vital place at the table, as ideas, strategies, and pro- cedures leading to solutions are evaluated and explored.

Throughout recent issues, our authors have offered suggestions for implementation under social distancing protocols or virtual/distance learning when possible. Finding learning ap- proaches that reveal and honor young engineers remains just as important during this time of COVID, whether in classrooms or on computer screens.

Continue to reach out to your NSTA colleagues for ideas, support, and inspiration. We will continue to listen to your needs, and together we will find the best approaches to edu- cate our children to adapt and succeed during this challenging educational time.

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