STEM in Education: Why It’s Not Just Another Fad
The development of the child’s mind and person, through schooling, is at the top of parents’ most important list, along with morals, ethics, and spiritual training. The things that kids need to learn in order to be successful as adults are both static and ever-changing. “Life Lessons” don’t change, but job markets do. And education experts are aware of their role in the latter.
Around 2005, the idea of STEM based education first began to take root in educational circles. The idea was that Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math should be the foundation on which education systems should be built. The roots of the movement can possibly be tied to the introduction of computing technology developed for the average consumer (i.e. home computers). But by around 2008, the acronym STEM began to show up in print and became a more commonly accepted educational idea. This concept is not about just teaching more of the individual subjects but creating a symbiotic relationship between these subjects and the other traditional liberal arts.
Technology driven markets were the impetus for this educational adjustment, and they still drive the need for STEM today. Robert Chapman teaches Foundations of Journalism, Yearbook, and Newspaper at Clinton High School. His unique perspective on the need for STEM can be attributed to all of the other things that he accomplishes at CHS and in his personal life. He runs the Clinton Athletics web site, ArrowAthletics.org, and is also in charge of live streaming athletic and school events. He maintains his personal blog Chapmanesque.com as well as produces a weekly podcast WGDP, the World’s Greatest Dad Podcast. This is the world that kids are moving into – English teachers no longer “just” teach English. As Chapman states, “a Language Arts teacher should take it upon herself or himself to understand how language plays a role in technology. From the simple idea of step-by-step how-to instructions to conveying laboratory findings and research, communication is key.”
Sometimes STEM needs to be defined by what it isn’t. It isn’t meant (or shouldn’t be meant) to eliminate the visual and/or performing arts. Architects and Interior Designers come to mind as good examples of the need for the inclusion of art in education. It isn’t an attempt (or shouldn’t be) to eliminate the teaching of history or social sciences. But, rather, it is considered to be a whole-system, integrated method of educating children that makes sure that the core subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are introduced early in real-life applications. The hope is to help kids develop with an awareness of how to best incorporate their own personal skills in a world that isn’t going back to VHS tapes, rotary phones, or hand-drawn building plans.
Chapman succinctly states, “By teaching STEM, even through Language Arts, students are able to pretty much play around with computer equipment, video equipment, and sound equipment which is something new to the Language Arts classroom. I teach journalism, and I preach to my students the fact that the traditional journalist is dead. Now, they have to pretty much be what I call a ‘Journalist in a Backpack.’ Students need to know how to string together a cognitive, concise narrative but also how to edit and produce the segment on your own.” When students are capable of using (and producing) technology, they become freed up to successfully pursue fields of interest that have “nothing” to do with STEM. Even professional ballet dancers need to understand the mechanics of using social media and minor video production to land jobs and advance their careers.
STEM based education isn’t a fad. When implemented properly, it encourages a realistic, whole-child educational approach that makes sure the student is ready for the world as it exists today. As Chapman reminds us “The days of being married to a single discipline are far gone.” Support for teachers who are teaching across the curriculum is just as important as being enthusiastic with encouragement for the student. A successful student will be well read and digitally confident. It’s a path of learning that takes children from the most important “three R’s” to confidently navigating professional careers.
Leah O’Gwynn Kackley homeschools her three kids in the Rez/Fannin area. STEM is a natural part of what they do, from handwriting essays in history to producing digital presentations for Spanish class. She is counting on one of them to teach her how to use Keynote.