What is STEM education? Why should teachers be interested in it?

In a simplified model of how the world works, we have technological advancement that feeds social, economic and political change, which in turn feeds back into more technological advancement. Myriads of parameters influence this process. Demographics, energy, food and water, raw materials, climate change, are just some of the most prominent influencers.

Change is accelerating at the same rate technological, social and political change is advancing. Education is at the forefront of this process as it is fundamental to shaping and preparing the most important global and national resource: humans.

Although the traditional industrial, educational system did well to get societies out of the countryside and into the cities, it is not set up to take us to the next level, that of a post-industrial society, in a post-scarcity economy. While for many, myself included, such a world is possible and likely, barring a major global setback, we don’t know how it will look.

What we do know with a high level of certainty, is that in such a world, people with specific skills and mindset will thrive and prosper. Such people will have an understanding and practical skills in science and engineering, a flair for creativity, a willingness to adapt to a changing environment, an appetite for entrepreneurship and the ability to communicate their ideas.

The traditional educational system evolved during the height of the industrial revolution. It produced excellent specialists, but it is not able to prepare us for what is coming next.

Education needs to change to be prepared for the future to come.

STEM, in particular, is a core component of this change.

In STEM education, we place particular emphasis on the way that four disciplines, Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics, work together to help create solutions to problems. STEM is not merely a curriculum; it is an approach to learning. This approach is a close relative to what is known as “Maker Education.”

In Maker Education learning takes place by working on practical projects. To bring a project to completion, the maker will employ knowledge and know-how from any “discipline” necessary. It could be engineering and science, but it can also be design, woodworking, and music. Maker Education represents the ultimate cross-disciplinary approach to learning, grounded in solving real-world problems and treating all human knowledge as a single gigantic source of incredible wealth. The goal is to develop a robust practical science and engineering skillset, with a creative and entrepreneurial mindset and the ability to communicate ideas.

Sounds familiar?

We can look at STEM education as a formalized version of Maker Education. In STEM education, cross-curriculum project-based work is just as important as it is in Maker Education, with the addition of specific learning outcomes. Even though for the sake of simplicity, the STEM acronym only contains four letters, in practice teachers and students utilize knowledge from multiple disciplines, without prejudice, to achieve their learning and project objectives; this is what makers also do.

For example, many STEM projects employ elements from design principles to produce a final artifact that is both useful and beautiful. Such integration between “hard” disciplines like mathematics and engineering with applied arts, has produced the acronym “STEAM.”

STEM is important because it gives our educational system a plan towards a necessary transformation. This transformation will make it possible for this system to provide for the educational needs of people that will operate in a future world where a new set of skills and mindset is necessary for success.

Teachers recognize that as the system changes, so should they. In fact, teachers are the ones that must spearhead this change. The educational system is a living organization, deeply rooted in the societies they serve; this is why STEM education should concern teachers. STEM education represents perhaps the most significant change in education in decades, and its importance will only grow with time.

Does this mean that a teacher who wants to teach STEM must train in the core STEM disciplines? I’ll answer this question in a new article.

In the meantime, if you would like to find out more about how STEM education could revolutionize your teaching or child’s education click on this link to read more right now.

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