STEM – Natural for Some, Not For Others
This post will explore how STEM subjects will shape the future.
What is STEM? Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Subjects that help the world go round.
Some kids very naturally gravitate to these subjects, with their inborn curiosity. Others are put off by or afraid of STEM.
The very idea of math or science in the United States today is off-putting and sometimes frightening to some. Many who study in these areas in our top universities and colleges come from – and often go back to – other countries.
How can we grow and develop our students better, to compete in world markets throughout their lifetimes? Most of us are aware of how STEM subjects will shape the future…How can we help more of our kids be creative innovators and work with and compete in STEM?
STEM Lagging in US
In the United States, our overall performance in STEM subjects lags behind many other countries. It is a concern for our competitiveness in the world markets, and for the futures of our children. There are things we can do about it…in our schools and in your home.
One reason can be that they just do not see the purpose of learning math or technology and how STEM subjects will shape the future for them and for our world. Another can be a fear of failure.
STEM and Self-Esteem
Being successful is important to kids, due to their parental accolades for success, to grades in school, to peer approval. Failure can often result in lower self-esteem.
Adding Art to STEM with Library Maker Spaces opens up exploration to those not naturally drawn into STEM investigation and learning.
It adds an element of practical (or impractical!) application that can capture the imagination for those who are not attracted with a native curiosity about the science itself.
The real-world applications of design thinking is not only attractive to more students, but also provides more in-depth mastery of the content. Less failure, and less fear.
Having STEAM educational approaches invites experimentation and innovation. By definition, experimentation is a learning and growing and discovering process.
Each experiment that does not work is not a failure so much as the elimination of one of a whole series of possibilities. That removes risk to the ego and self-image for a child.
Future Jobs Will Require Talents Learned with STEAM – How STEM Subjects Will Shape the Future
In addition, top STEM education involves a lot of collaboration and social interaction.
In a 2014 study done by the America Society of Engineering Education found the following five essential elements to a top STEM educational system:
- Teaching of high quality content
- Meaningful and significant learning and use of the content by the students
- Teaching that is student-centered and inquiry-based
- Use of engineering design (read invention!) to solve engineering challenges
- A safe learning environment of trial and error with collaboration and teamwork
These approaches to STEAM, drawing more students in, build lifelong characteristics that lead to entrepreneurialism, communication, problem-solving, creativity and innovation, and critical thinking skills. These are skills that lead to lifelong learning, and that give job-success impacts for careers.
STEAM vs. STEM Controversy
There are those who fear that adding Art to STEM teaching will dilute rather than enhance STEM learning.
The argument that adding STEAM to attract more students to STEM subjects is a weak-sister approach of lowering the learning standards to appeal to the masses. To do this would reduce the content levels to the lowest common denominator, these pure STEM advocates argue.
It is certainly a possibility.
It depends, it seems to me, on how STEAM is done. If the Art component becomes 20% of the content, there will certainly be a dilution factor. I argue, if a student is looking for an art course, of or she should take an art course.
In fact, since No Child Left Behind legislation, Art has been ranked equal to math, science, reading and the like as a part of the desired core curriculum for all students. Having art courses available in the school systems is desirable, most people in the United States think.
Adding Art to STEM should be done to enhance the depth of learning, not to replace the content of the STEM courses. If that is done properly, there is no dilution factor, even while attracting in broader student interest.
Fab Labs in the Schools
Fab Labs, a term coined at MIT, is another name for Maker Spaces. Library Maker Spaces are being added to school libraries more and more often.
A Library Maker Space is an area or lab where students can design solutions to science and engineering challenges using math, art and technology.
The components can range from very low-tech like scraps of fabric, plastic recyclables and cereal boxes, and basic drawing, paint and paper supplies to high tech like 3-D printers and Little Bits. Included in the mix are glue guns, scissors, saws, Lego, motors, knitting and crochet and weaving supplies, and masking tape. The possibilities are endless.
STEAM Helps Get Into the “Hearts, Minds and Hands” of Learners
About 250 years ago a prominent educator named Pestalozzi said the best way to aid academic learning is to get into the “hearts, minds and hands” of learners.
With advances in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the subsequent years, there is more and more for children to learn.
The best way to have usable academic knowledge still remains the same as it was back in the 18th Century. Maker Spaces and STEAM are steps in the direction of building the character, the mastery of content and the needed process and skills for lifelong success we all want for our children.
If your child's school system does not have STEAM or a Maker Space, read how you can give your child some of the benefits of a Maker Space at home. Making sure your child gets STEAM, at school and/or at home, will help him become to most he can be throughout his life. That's what we want, isn't it, as parents and grandparents.
I hope this blog gives you some information to help to incorporate STEAM into your child's education. Let me know how STEM and STEAM are doing in your schools, and what you are doing to help. The more you do, the better off we will be.