STEM Skills will Help Save our Planet

IMG_2641I’ve spent the past five days supporting our friends at Polar Bears International with their Tundra Connections webcast series that brings classrooms from all around the world to the tundra to learn from scientists about polar bears, climate change and what we can do to help save our sea ice. The theme of this week was “Discovering our World with STEM.”

STEM is a pretty popular acronym these days and its definition is varied depending on who you ask. Rodger Bybee does a great job of presenting the history and context of the STEM term, as well as articulating its various representations in “The Case for STEM Education: Challenges and Opportunities.”  I also like my colleague Jonathan Gerlach’s presentation of STEM that places the focus on STEM as pedagogy. The goal is not to focus more on these four discrete content areas; rather, we should strive for a transdisciplinary approach to our instruction that places inquiry, meaning and critical thought at the center of our STEM philosophy.

As a result, we are then able to view STEM through the lens of broader student outcomes such as those articulated by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills – creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. In doing so, we recognize that every job, career and profession involves STEM skills, and it’s not about STEM jobs, but the STEM skills in every job.

This point was continually reinforced to me this week as I spent time with incredibly talented scientists and experts in their field. As we discussed their specialities, it was really apparent to me that a deep, disciplined content focus was certainly an ingredient for success as Howard Gardner presents in Five Mind for the Future. But, each of the scientists placed an equal or even greater value on skills like collaboration and communication.

So, I took my phone out and captured a few mini-interviews that I hope will help your students recognize the value of pursuing something you are passionate about and emphasize the critical role of STEM skills for every kid.  I hope you can use these quick videos to inspire your students in using STEM as a means for changing the world.  They certainly inspire me.

Dr. Kyle Armour
Assistant Professor in the School of Oceanography and Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington

Dr. Megan Owen
Associate Director of Applied Animal Ecology at the Institute for Conservation Research, San Diego Zoo

Dr. Nicholas Pilfold
Post Doctoral Research Associate at the University of Alberta in the Department of Biological Sciences

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