Not Everyone Will Be an Engineer - and That's Okay
Real talk: Even with the global focus on STEM education, not every child will grow up to be a scientist, mathematician, or engineer. And that’s okay.
There’s mounting evidence showing the growing demand for a STEM workforce. And it makes perfect sense.
As the world becomes increasingly connected and reliant on technology to facilitate quick communication, social and financial transactions, societies will need competent people to build, maintain, and progress this technological infrastructure. Introducing STEM early in schools is the key to sparking early interests in these fields.
But not every child will grow up to choose a profession in a STEM field. And societies will still want and need actors, writers, conductors, politicians, lawyers, designers, farmers, salespeople, and other professionals where deep STEM literacy may not be as meaningful to their day-to-day work.
So how can we teach STEM in a way that is meaningful to a diverse group of individuals with a potpourri of different interests, strengths, and dreams?
Here are some of ways we believe educators can achieve this:
Teach STEM as innovation. Innovative thinking and problem-solving are important for every career, in every sector. By leveraging kids’ natural creativity, STEM as innovation can build transferable skills such as challenging the status quo, thinking outside the box, and creatively problem solving through research and iteration.
Place importance on the art of working with others. Teach STEM as collaborative problem-solving, and foster a culture of constructive feedback in your classroom. When teams of students are presented with a problem to solve, model how to gather every individual’s background knowledge on the topic, communicate and vet ideas respectfully and productively, and divide/delegate tasks.
Allow students to define creativity for themselves. Each child may have a different idea for how to improve their engineering design or technology. Some may want to iterate the mechanics of the technology, while others may believe that changing its color or pattern would make the technology more appealing to a wider audience. As long as students can provide a reasoning for how and why they would make certain changes, embrace and welcome non-technical ideas as well as the technical ones.
Show the relevance of STEM, especially engineering, in everyday life. Make the connection between learning STEM and real life for kids, even the very youngest ones. Allow kids to ponder how the jungle gym was designed, how cafeteria lunch trays are recycled, why the projector only works when it’s plugged into an outlet, and how websites and online games are made (spoiler: it’s not magic!). As with other subject areas, engage all students by showing how what they are learning matters to their lives.
To learn more about Teaching Garage's elementary engineering curriculum, visit www.teachinggarage.com/designsystemcurriculum.