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STEM Education - Why Do We Need It?



The world is changing ever so fast. Technology is changing the way we communicate, work, play and even love. Societies are reforming, reshaping, and redefining themselves. Everything we know may give in, at any moment, to something new and improved. Did anyone say Walkman?

What drives these changes? Where are they taking us? Will things get better, or worse? While these are very important questions, I'm not going to try and answer them. It's an academic discussion that puts us in a bit of a passive position, as if we are spectators of a sci-fi apocalyptic movie. Let's not go there. Let's take the active path. With all these changes taking place, let's ask ourselves: where do we want to go? Where do we want to be in 10, 20 or even 50 years from now? A change is not necessarily a threat, it is also an opportunity, one that may go by unnoticed. What is the nature of this opportunity? How can we seize it? Where and what should we aim for? For that I can try to provide some answers. Are you with me? Yes? Then let's go.

First thing’s first. Let's analyze this opportunity, look at it from an objective position, saying things as they are, without judging, or deciding which are good and which are bad. At the base of this opportunity, I see how dogmas are abandoned.
People no longer see things as a given. People are willing to take action and try new things, new ideas. In a way, the world is shedding its old skin, ready to accept whatever form fits it best. Next, there is the technological revolution. Setting aside the good/bad discussion, we can definitely agree that with all that technological progress, almost anything is possible. Looking at these two key points, I believe the world is ready for a revolution. We are in a time where we can almost start anew.

Reshape our lives, and the lives of our children, the way we want them to be. This brings on that philosophical, always there question:

What do we want?
Without going into specifics, I can assume we all want better lives. I will even avoid listing things like less wars or better healthcare. I think this can be summed up by just asking for more love. Love conquers all. It heals pain and fights off fear. It is the foundation of the human race, even at times when it seems to be forgotten. And may I dare say, free love.
So what does love have to do with STEM and education? I am going to show you it has everything to do with STEM and education.
Let's move on to the next question: What is STEM? it's the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and sometimes referred to as STEAM
(A for Arts). STEM education is the interdisciplinary approach of teaching these subject matters. Unlike your regular classes where each topic is taught as a silo, standalone topic; in STEM each lesson brings in all those subject matters into one cohesive learning activity, enabling the student to experience the interconnectivity that makes up this world.

Here is an example:
James was asked in his STEM class to come up with a project. His passion to racecars brought him to design a modeled racecar of his own. Since racing is all about speed (distance per time), he was trying to figure out how the size of the wheels would affect the car's speed. In order to figure that out, he needed to experiment, scientifically. James came up with this hypothesis: the bigger the car wheels (in Diameter), the faster the car will go. James then needed to validate his hypothesis. For that, he set up an experiment in which he designed the same car but with different wheel size. He engineered such a car using a modular construction set, and accessorized it with sensors and motors. After the engineering part was over, he needed to find a way to collect the data (distance per time). Using basic coding, James was able to record the data for later analysis. After conducting multiple tests (n), with different wheel sizes, James had enough data to start evaluating his hypothesis. Applying basic math skills (statistics and such) he was able to show, and back up with objective data, that the racecar did indeed go faster with bigger wheels. He presented this to his classmates but was confused when was asked by one of his peers a very strange question. It goes like this: "If bigger wheels mean higher speed why do race cars don't have enormous wheels?" This set James off into a new experiment looking into the effect of wheel mass on speed.

Now I ask you, was this Science? Or maybe Math? Or could this be a technological project? Engineering?
Was it all of the above?
This is interdisciplinary STEM.
And how can this bring more love?
Easy. And to illustrate it, I bring before you a short story I hold dear:

“Two mothers are walking down the street. As a homeless person passes by, one mother says to her child with a harsh look on her face, ’if you won’t study hard, you'll end up like him’ (can you smell the fear?) The second mother looked at her child and said with compassion ‘if you’ll study hard and do your best, you may be able to help him and others like him’”.

In STEM education students work together to solve problems and provide solutions for real world problems. The key is to focus on social problems that can be solved through Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and not math problems or engineering challenges. Bringing out the social needs, while evoking compassion and empathy in our children is, in my view, is the heart of STEM.

There are many ways to go about STEM, make sure you use it to bring love into your students’ hearts. Let your students find ways of helping others, their friends, families, communities, or even countries. Looking for inspiration? Then check out "Just Spirulina" - an incredible STEM project that started at the Hebrew Gymnasium of Tel Aviv in Israel, and is now making this world a better place.

Adi Shmorak | Innovation Manager
Intelitek