School has always been a place to train students for their eventual adult lives. Cultural norms have long dictated the foundation they need to survive in society and the workforce — reading, writing, math and science.
Now, more than ever, that training mission is evolving and seems akin to rocketing them into space rather than keeping their feet grounded.
That’s because today’s schools are preparing students for careers we haven’t yet imagined. In fact, according to a 2017 report by Dell, 85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet.
Employable Skills and Real-World Solutions Grow from STEM
Project-based learning and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education give students the tools to solve real-world problems while also building their critical-thinking skills. DeQueen (Ark.) Public Schools showcases its students’ STEM successes at its annual Tinker Fair.
It’s a culmination of robotics and programming being taught at every grade level. At its core, says Technology Coordinator Nena Land, STEM instruction prepares students for the real world and the future — the foundation and the rocket ride.
“We’re teaching computational skills by having students break large problems into a sequence of smaller, more manageable ones,” Land says tells EdTech.
At Warren Township High School in Illinois, students are also learning these skills by participating in a yearly hackathon.
There, they brainstorm and develop solutions that solve real-world dilemmas, such as a smart mirror that has conversations with students to boost their self-esteem and a digital road sign that adjusts speed limits automatically based on weather and road conditions.
As the school year begins, it’s heartening to see students launching interest in STEM, and educators building extra programs to accommodate the need for future-forward planning.
It’s also imperative that schools lead the way, not just in offering stronger STEM programming, but in advocating for it with the community and championing it with students — especially at the K–12 level where they are first exposed to it.