Entice, engage, enhance and expect results? We all know and understand that STEM education needs to be a part of every child’s education. We need students to be capable in these areas to be STEM literate . If we implement STEM education with the traditional silos of science, which will include technology and the resulting math needed to do the science, and then maybe give a superficial touch to engineering considering it “design,”are we really engaging students in what STEM is about? Will this fundamental approach reach out to enough students? Will it interest and invest students in all of the possibilities that make up STEM?
I am working on some new curriculum interventions for existing engineering design-centered lessons. In thinking about this, I have been hoping to create something different or at least an alternate perspective. So much of what students need to learn and do, experience, is fundamental. Design may sound foreign to some, or even “high-brow,” How can I design something? At the same time, it may intrigue those who wish to be creative, whether or not they have fundamental design skills. So I thought about what elements are key to living, to many things we do. I came up with design, rhythm and movement. These components are in everything we do.
We design our day as we structure how to use our time. We design our face with make-up and hair with a blow dryer and hair products. We design how we put our food on the plate. We design how our home looks in a way to make us feel secure and comfortable. Do these design skills qualify as STEM skills? Are there those who do most of these things at random jumping in and out of the shower and putting on whatever clothes are in their first grasp? Is design deliberate in your life? Does it help to make your life organized so you can find something you want when you need it? Do we learn how to make systems through design?
Does design have rhythm? Rhythm is a pattern or movement in which somethings occur with regularity. That pattern may be simple or complex. Does this pattern have to go with a certain beat or time, as in music? Having taught music a lot, I always run into the one or two students who think rhythm in music is arbitrary, or it is okay if they are close. It’s not okay. Rhythm in music is precise as is the answer to any mathematical problem. Unless there are specific instructions to “loosen” the rhythm, there is only one pattern. These patterns are distinct. I challenge you to recognize a song by its rhythm alone. It is as easy to do as by the tune. Rhythm is innate in weather patterns, the way we walk, the way we talk. It is fundamental.
Some of these patterns have movement and some don’t. Are they innate or do we control those patterns? Can we spend hours of practice learning to perfect a pattern or task with a pattern and do we use rhythm and movement to do that? How are rhythm and movement connected and the same? How are they different? Can you separate these components? Is it a slight bit different for everyone?
These ideas may seem like heavy fodder for K-12 students to ponder. I think that when learning about design and how things are put together and how they work, we need to start with those fundamentals. They become a part of every art work, every machine and most of our daily activities. We can learn from the way nature has rhythm and movement and as a result, shows us its natural design. We can defy that naturalness, or amplify it and create something different. That process is creativity or innovation. We take what occurs in nature and the study of the natural world (science) and put it to use (engineering). To do that we need the skills in mathematics to understand and predict. From all of these efforts comes something new, technology. STEM.
Time to explore these fundamental concepts: rhythm, design and movement, is necessary to create STEM literate citizens. It is necessary for students not to do things by random, but by design. Understanding our innate nature as human beings is to create, to design, and we do it in a world in which we understand its many rhythms and movements. These components are fundamental to creating whole people and should be a fundamental part of any education.