Isn’t it just another fad?
Why should I have to teach it?
These are questions I heard often as a teacher. People wanted to know why I cared so much about STEM and why I couldn’t stop talking about it.
We all know that STEM education focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math. But it’s more than that. STEM is also inherently cross curricular with connections to reading, social studies, art, music, health, and physical education. This is why I love teaching STEM. It’s all about looking at a problem, figuring out options, and testing them out. Students absorb and apply knowledge from this model.
What about soft skills? Three of the most valuable soft skills with value for the future workforce are problem-solving, collaboration, and application.
There are a lot of big problems in our world, problems that might even feel overwhelming to us and our students. It seems like problem-solving is a lost skill in our society and that many people have been conditioned to find answers as quickly as possible with little or no effort. We should always be trying to solve new and difficult problems in our communities and in our world. As I told my students, if we aren’t failing, we aren’t challenging ourselves.
Collaboration goes hand-in-hand with problem solving. Almost every career requires some sort of collaborative interaction. Unfortunately, the pandemic has impacted not only our students’ physical health, but also challenged their emotional health. We see gaps in social skills, including collaboration. Fortunately, STEM is all about collaboration, and perspective-taking and listening are just a few of the skills that are part of a holistic STEM classroom.
Finally, application is a skill that is integral to STEM education as well as workforce development. Content knowledge is important, we can all agree. But how students apply that content knowledge in the process of problem solving is even more important. When students apply their knowledge, it becomes meaningful and relevant. A student who memorizes the parts of a car has content knowledge. A student who can apply that content knowledge can then actually fix the car.
I have spent my whole career trying to find the perfect way to answer the question, “Why STEM education?” There is no perfect answer. Instead, we see examples of students learning material that matters to them and the future careers they might pursue. STEM education is about finding opportunities, taking risks, and learning. This is the type of movement we need to see in education.
Let us know on social media what you do in your classroom for STEM Education!