Monday, February 22, 2016

Adventures in STEM


Besides being one of the latest in a long, long line of hot terms in education, what is it? The STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education movement focuses on building critical thinking skills and applying them. There are whole schools dedicated to STEM, but the concepts are also meant to be incorporated into other subjects. 

Why STEM education? 

In case you missed it, the vast majority of manufacturing jobs have been sent overseas. That itself took millions of jobs away from American workers. There's a bigger problem, though: the factory model, where people worked from the early 1900s to just a few decades ago, is what our schools are preparing kids for: a job where they have a role, are told what to do, and do it over and over. No thinking outside the box needed. Many of theose jobs are gone. Replacing them is a high-tech field requiring the ability to think critically. This is where STEM education comes in. Many jobs now are in STEM fields and I imagine the field will keep growing. 

Less than 1 in 4 workers in STEM fields are women, which makes it all the more awesome that Norah told us she was making a list of all the things she wanted to learn on our way to the Adventure Science Center in Nashville. She loved the place and stayed excited the whole time. Definitely a great place to take kids in Nashville.

Encourage your kids to ask questions. Even the dreaded "Why?" I admit it makes me want to bang my head against a window when Norah asks why incessantly. One thing I'm trying is telling her we ask questions to learn things. If you already know the answer, you don't really need to ask.

Foster their innate curiosity. Believe it or not kids want to learn. They just want to do it on their own terms and at their own pace. Have patience. If you've got the time, let them look under rocks or try to float random objects down the stream or do whatever it is they're interested in in that moment.

Bottom line is, if you have the time you should let and encourage kids to pursue their curiosities, particularly if it involves figuring something out. This applies to any age, really. For these little ones, plant the seed that will become a love of learning and a base for critical thinking. In older kids, have them find the answers to their own questions and share what they've found. Their smartphone could be good for something, after all.