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Developing Tomorrow's Problem Solvers with STEM Education Today
Tomorrow's global challenges will be addressed by today's children. Most of the challenges -- whether energy, water, or cyber security, will require solutions based in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Therefore it is important we teach science, technology and math in a way that appeals to, and fosters the natural characteristics of children: creativity and curiosity. Otherwise, research shows that many students, especially girls, will lose interest in these subjects by late elementary age, and subsequently begin to close the doors to opportunities needed to become tomorrow's innovators, researchers, scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. Tomorrow's problem solvers will be literate in science, technology, design, engineering, computer science and mathematics.
Motivation Through Project-based Learning in School - Engineering Thinking
One strategy to keep students interested in science, technology and math is to tie these subjects together with hands-on activities and problem-based projects. For example, projects that require students to design or improve a product or process can ignite intrinsic motivation, and introduce students to basic design and engineering concepts. By teaching a problem-solving methodology such as the Engineering Design Cycle from the Boston Museum of Science, students learn to tap into creative thought processes and well as critical thinking processes. As important as understanding the Scientific Method which requires that one gather and interpret data and evidence, the Engineering Design Cycle teaches thoughtful consideration of multiple solutions to a problem, and applying what they know. Creative, out-of-the-box thinking can lead to innovative ideas and solutions. If we give students the opportunity to approach real-world problems from creative perspectives -- and then give them opportunities to design and engineer solutions, it can become a natural way of thinking.
Motivation Through Informal Education - Maker Projects and Hobbies
Another strategy for keeping students interested in science, technology, engineering and math, is through informal education and exposure to these subjects through projects and hobbies, or through family discussions around the dinner table. The Maker Movement is spreading across the globe with affordable and free computer aided design (CAD) software tools and 3D printers and various kits, clubs and Meetup groups. Intel recently created a Maker website because their research also supports the maker concept as an entree into STEM subject. Computer programming or coding is the next wave in education -- with numerous tools for developing applications for smartphones, games or programming devices you build. There are new educational toys and kits, trips to the nearest science center, websites, or even through the many television programs such as PBS Design Squad, How Its Made on the Discovery Channel, Stuff You Should Know on the Science Channel, and the History Channel's program, Modern Marvels. With the use of digital recorders such as DVRs and Tivo, a family can watch these programs together. Many families talk about movie stars and sports teams, but how many talk about cool new discoveries, or how things work? Your daughters and sons take cues from you to help decide what is important, whether you realize it or not. See our Tips for Parents document on the page for parents.
Motivation Through Career Exposure - Design, Computer Science & Engineering
Middle and high school aged students are learning about science, technology and math in school, but many are not being taught how knowledge applies to various careers. It is important to expose students to the new and evolving multidisciplinary STEM careers of the future, so they can begin to imagine where they might fit into the world. One of our favorite websites www.engineeryourlife.org has videos that give insight into various engineering-related careers. In addition, see the latest issue of of eGFI (engineering Go For It), a colorful, informative magazine for students highlighting STEM careers. Available in print, or online at eGFI, it is a publication from the American Society for Engineering Education.
The greatest invention in the world
is the mind of a child.
is the mind of a child.
How You Can Foster an Interest in STEM
You can find ideas on the Resources page including links to free curriculum ideas for educators and parents, websites for students, and various other sources to educate yourself, and our children in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). School breaks and summertime are a great time to experiment and explore, so see the links for toys and kits on the Resources page. You will see there are hundreds of STEM websites and programs around the country.
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