From a very young age, we are influenced by our schooling; and throughout childhood and well into adulthood, education plays an essential role in how we move through the world. Traditional educational milestones focus on reading, writing and arithmetic; but today’s curriculum is heavily influenced by a combination of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – or STEM.
While “STEM” as an acronym can be traced to the 1950s, it wasn’t until the 2000s that it became widely used to refer to exploring these four subjects through a variety of real-world learning experiences. A STEM-focused curriculum challenges students to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-life problems. But how does it prepare our next generation to make a difference? Let’s take a closer look at just how impactful this skill set really is.
Builds Critical Thinking
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics all have one thing in common: critical thinking. In order to solve a problem, one must evaluate the information they have been given to form a solution. Students who focus on STEM learning from a young age are empowered to look at situations holistically and think critically. This background of knowledge teaches the approach of bringing together different core areas of skills to determine a solution.
Check out some at-home activities to get your child engaged in STEM so they can practice these core critical thinking skills.
Promotes Innovation and Creativity
A STEM education can help inspire innovation and creativity. Students who engage in STEM-based curriculum are typically encouraged to select a problem that piques their curiosity and use their own creativity to research, design and test a solution. Providing this creative freedom from a young age gives students the ability to discard the “right or wrong” attitude of traditional education and explore non-binary solutions.
Many educators who are involved in STEM-related courses have also made an effort to shift their focus from traditional test-taking styles and grading to project-based grading. Assessing the overall project as opposed to traditional test questions (which have a right or wrong answer) allows students to be judged on more than the final product. Adopting this “process over product” mentality much better prepares children for the real world.
Check out our post on the future of STEM education to learn how a STEM-based curriculum will continue to evolve over the next few years.
STEM-based learning centers around the collaboration of ideas and principals principles from a variety of disciplines. However, collaboration with others is also essential to STEM. Because a lot of STEM coursework is project-based, it requires children to work with others from a young age. Teamwork enhances the success of our future problem solvers because it exposes them to a diverse set of skills and ideas. As children enter the workforce, it’s critical that they know how to navigate working with groups of people who have different viewpoints and strengths. Learning the intangible skills of communication and collaboration help people better work together to achieve a common goal.
Critical thinking, creativity and teamwork are all critical skills that cannot be taught easily from a textbook – they are honed by years of practice. Fostering these skills from a young age can give children an advantage when they grow up and enter a workforce filled with collaborative and STEM-focused careers. Check out how Hughes is committed to supporting the next generation of STEM leaders together with National 4-H here.