Several months ago I attended the National Science Foundation’s Conference on Lessons Learned from SMART Schools teaching STEM Education. It’s come to our attention that many parents may be looking for more information on STEM education, so I thought it was a good time to post about it. STEM education stands for curriculum that emphasizes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. At The Hacktory we prefer STEAM education, which includes art in there, but that’s a separate issue. No one will dispute that education in the US has slipped, so the National Science Foundation has made efforts to support schools and research best practices to encourage learning in STEM areas. The conference coincided with a report by the National Research Council on these practices, which you can buy in print for $9.95 here, or download as a pdf for free. The website for the conference also has a list of other resources, and says they will post other events on this topic, but those are “coming soon…”
Unfortunately, in my opinion the conference featured many experts saying what our schools, teachers and parents “should” be doing; things like using hands-on lesson plans, real world examples, and fun experiments in class. Can you think of anyone who would say we need more textbook learning in our science/tech/math classes – of course not! So I wasn’t left feeling like I had learned much. When members of the audience raised pointed questions, like how the experts suggested teachers and schools provide these learning experiences with the severely limited resources they already have, the audience was thanked for bringing up those issues, but not much in terms of a response or answer was offered. Fixing our education system is a massive problem with many facets, and there is no easy solution. It is hard to want to work on the problem with so much gloom and doom in what’s been written and discussed, which is why I did appreciate one panelist toward the end of the day who mentioned that what the US education does well. From what he’s seen in traveling, the thing the US system does provide that other countries, particularly Asian countries, lack, is training that makes students willing to try and fail. Without a stifling fear of failure, our students are more adventuresome in what they choose to test and verify, and therefore are ahead in coming to more creative solutions. This is something US teachers and parents should know about, emphasize, and celebrate. It’s what we’re all about at The Hacktory – exploration and creativity to problem-solve. If you have comments or suggestions about what schools should do, or what The Hacktory could provide to teachers and parents, please leave a comment, we are definitely interested in areas to focus on in the formal school system.