My brain has been on fire about this subject. It doesn’t have to be STE[a]M and it isn’t just STEM. They are acronyms or shortcuts that have a much more complex, detailed meaning. In my quest to create programs and endorse STEM/STE[a]M education, I experience a surge of people all grabbing for their piece of this pie as if they are in line early in the morning on Black Friday to get the next generation of the X Box. Professional development is given and for the most part is is presented by a science teacher or educator or one who teaches science teachers to be teachers. When questioned about where is the rest of the puzzle, they shake their head and say, “Yes we intend to add that.” Okay. WHEN?? If a large group of educators, those who teach educators and industry professional interested parties are gathered, they all believe STEM education is vast. It covers a gamut of subjects, almost indefinable through its integration of the four stated disciplines. It is not rocket science to understand that STEM education is not just science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but it is the integration of all of those subjects which includes a vast array of other 21st century skills: communication, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving. To that end students must learn history, be able to read and write well and use the arts as tools and vehicles for experience. I have these questions for starters:
- How do we teach students the concepts that they need to know (science) and mathematics while allowing them to discover and or fail and then try again?
- Do the labs that are done always have a predictable outcome?
- Do students know the answer they are supposed to get before they start?
- Is there any room for discovery?
- Can design/engineering projects be done USING science and math rather than teaching these concepts directly?
Science is discovery. It is finding out about things through experiment and question using already known information. It should push the envelope, don’t you think? Expand the limits of what you already know and either prove or disprove. Engineering uses science to solve problems and create new things. Creativity is applied in engineering by finding materials or ideas and making something in the most efficient way — there is the trial and error. Both disciplines use math as a tool to figure out needed information and calculations. Technology is broad. It is the tool to do some of the math, science and engineering and it is also a means of discovering new materials, how technology works (yes, I mean computers and all of the fun toys we have grown to love). I am not a science person in that my content knowledge is minimal, maybe a lot for a regular person, but a drop compared to all of those PhD’s. I marvel at scientists and admire. I am ecstatic that we have a new-found interest in science in our country evidenced by the publicity for the recent discoveries of the Mars Rover Curiosity and the new version of the incredible COSMOS with Neil de Grasse Tyson.. (I hope I am not imagining this because I wish it to be true.) Yes I know there are loud disbelievers, but there are many earth missions in place for 2014 to enhance our knowledge of the planet and of climate change and global warming. I am ignoring you disbelievers because your voice is not rational. It is not based in science. So I am all for science. That being said, you science people need to respect and open the door to a broad comprehensive view of what an education should be. Those that make these great discoveries were somewhere, sometime, inspired by someone. It could have been their art teacher. It could have been the experience of being in a musical group and the collaboration that made a group go above and beyond. It is all discipline and hard work. Nothing exists in its oneness. I realize this post is a bit ornery. It’s a big world and there is room in it for all voices. We need to work together. Science is not better than anything else. STEM/STE[a]M does not exist to give more emphasis to arts education because numbers and funding is shrinking. All of these disciplines can work together in harmony. It is not so much a new way to learn, but a better way to learn.