George Lucas Educational Foundation

Conditions for STEM: 3 Things to Consider

Conditions for STEM: 3 Things to Consider

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The urgency to foster STEM initiatives throughout the country is moving at lightening speed. There are many things to consider support to conditions that need to be in place to foster the thinking and questioning to drive our problem solvers into becoming problem finders.

Design Thinking: Understanding the role of “design” in a learning environment really isn’t difficult for the students. It’s the teachers unfamiliarity of where an opened ended learning experience fueled by students passion could lead that creates some hesitation. Kids have been learning through making things since they were little. Didn’t we all make a fort in our living rooms? Design thinking fosters skills our students have been using throughout their lives to figure out exactly how this complicated world works. Fostering that thinking and failing forward mindsets will build critical thinking, problem solving, and grit among our learners as they apply their learning in authentic ways.

Failing Forward: I opened up my email one day to this from a SMILE (STEM Mobile Integrated Learning Experience) teacher: 

 “I have to say that I have never thought of the idea of “failing forward.”  I now use that term throughout my day and my 2nd grade kiddos have really embraced the idea of making mistakes that launch our thinking.  It gives everyone the expectation of risk taking, which can be difficult at the beginning of the school year.”  -Elementary Teacher

Using even the word "fail" was frowned upon in classrooms or better yet, when students are looking around and notice their work is different and in fear they erase and copy what they believe to be the “right” answer. 

Seeing students struggle would make teachers nervous, leaving feelings of maybe they were doing something wrong. But what if students had time to grapple with a concept and then the teacher provided some scaffolds in connecting some of the dots. How can we look at not “getting it” the first time and failing forward (making mistakes) as an opportunity to think critically about how we could access the resources needed to figure it out, growing our brains throughout the process.  

Considering "Average": Todd Rose in his Ted Talk "The Myth of Average" deconstructs this idea of "average" and the impact it has on developing student potential. Creating conditions for STEM learning in our classrooms is not a one size fits all, nor an option, but a necessity to prepare them for tomorrow. How do we help teachers consider that  different is great, not the same is not wrong, and adding onto another students thinking to build their own learning potential is even better. 

Creating a culture of hope, creativity, and innovation doesn’t happen overnight, but being inspired to work towards this outcome propels us forward as warriors in  designing learning experiences that foster design thinking, failing forward, and teaching to the edges.

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