Loyola University Chicago

Children's Memory and Learning

TALES: Tinkering and Learning Engineering Stories

The Tinkering and Learning Engineering Stories (TALES) project investigates how stories can be integrated into informal STEM learning experiences for young children and their families. We are collaborating with long time partners, the Chicago Children’s Museum, Northwestern University, and a new addition, Roosevelt University. The broad purpose of this project is both to contribute knowledge to the field of STEM learning practice and to employ quality practices in informal learning settings.  

TALES explores a few key questions centered around the impact of storytelling, tinkering exhibit design and facilitation approaches on engineering-rich stories, spatial thinking, and STEM learning. Stories can be especially effective because they bridge the knowledge and experiences young children and their caregivers bring to tinkering as well as the conversations and hands-on activities that can extend that knowledge. In addition, a unique contribution of the project is to test the hypothesis that stories can also facilitate spatial reasoning, by encouraging children to think about the spatial properties of their emerging structures. 

The Tinkering and Learning Engineering Stories (TALES) uses design-based research (DBR) methods to advance knowledge and the evidence base for practices that engender story-based tinkering. The team will consider the demographic characteristics, linguistic practices, and funds of knowledge of the participants to understand the design practices (resources, activities) being implemented and how they potentially facilitate learning. The outcome of each study/DBR cycle serves as inputs for questions and hypotheses in the next.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program awarded in July 2019 for $1.9M, which supports innovative research, approaches, and resources for use in a variety of learning settings.

To see our progress, please view our Presenter's Choice-winning video for the 2021 STEM For All video showcase. More details about this project are on the Informal Science TALES project page.