Some schools are finding that there is a definite connection between STEM and the real world.
“Twenty-first century learning” is a term often used by educators and in recent years it has gained traction. According to the Partnership For 21st Century Skills website, the core of this learning method is to teach students “The Four Cs” — critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. In addition, 21st century learning emphasizes information, media and technology skills.
In Masachussetts, the Maynard Public Schools have embraced this learning method wholeheartedly with the STEM program.
The STEM program, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, is directed by John Mollica, the engineering teacher at Maynard High School. Mollica has spent 25 years working in the engineering field, including 12 at former local technology powerhouse Digital. He has been a teacher for the past eight years. STEM has been adapted by the Maynard school system for three years.
The real goal of STEM, said Mollica, is to create projects and education “in context” and to “employ all these things just as they naturally are.”
For example, students in engineering courses at Maynard High have been tasked with not only building and examining the function of audio speakers, but they have also “traced the experiments of those who invented electromagnetism, induction, motors, and the like that added up to the invention of the modern day audio speaker,” said Mollica.
STEM aims to create a cohesive, focused, and inclusive learning system that will prepare students for the world outside the classroom.
Mollica and his fellow technology teachers begin to build the program in middle school, but soon the program could be introduced in the younger grades. Don Holm, interim director of curriculum for the Maynard Public Schools, said the program is headed towards “more kinds of STEM instruction from kindergarten on.”
“STEM is a vital tool in making students aware of job opportunities coming out of high school and college. Approximately 70,000 engineering jobs go unfilled each year, a statistic than can change if more children are exposed to the field from an earlier age,” said Mollica.
Holm reinforced this idea, noting that “more integration of career awareness” is in the future for the program.
“Schools need to embrace STEM,” Holm said, adding that soon schools may be expanding their science and math programs.
A major problem plaguing the realm of engineering and technology is the dearth of women entering the field as a career. This is also reflected, said Mollica, in the classrooms. High school engineering courses are much more populated by boys than girls. He hopes, through programs such as STEM, more girls will become interested in these fields. According to the STEM education coalition website, only 31 percent of women in higher education receive STEM degrees.
Ultimately, the STEM program will be implemented district wide, encouraging students to get involved with science, technology, engineering, and math. In addition, Mollica said he hopes to create an “integrated education that pulls the curriculum together and condenses it for the outside world.”
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