“The greatest power on Earth is the magnificent power all of us possess… the power of the human brain!” – Charles Xavier of X-Men fame (Marvel comics)
After traveling across Nigeria, seeing what is going on in fantastic engineering programmes in Accra and observing young teens at the Queensland University in Brisbane, Australia, I remain convinced more than ever that we should tap and develop the STEM skills of our students in Nigeria and Africa. Before I delve into my findings, a quick recap is needed as I have met some of our people who required a quick explanation.
What Is STEM?
STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Some people also include art and call it STEAM! In STEM education, we emphasise engagement with students across all of these subjects, especially on integrating the subjects in various ways. An instance of this is when a science lesson incorporates maths and engineering, also when a maths lesson incorporates the use of technology.
Activities that are STEM-based integrate these four areas of learning. For example, a block-building activity can involve experimenting and learning about the natural world (science), using tools to measurement (technology), solving a problem during building (engineering), and comparing the sizes of blocks (maths).
Why Is STEM Important?
From my observations in working with children and letting them flow towards discovery while learning, children love taking part in STEM activities! From interactions with them, I have come up with 10 relevant reasons for raising super duper children.
By the way, does anyone notice the reference to Marvel comic books in my quote? That should tell you how much I love comics. If you are an avid reader of these books, you’d notice how integral STEM is to solving the challenges in them and how they are have actually propelled the relevance of STEM more than ever. Need I mention Black Panther or how Disney donated $1,000,000 for a STEM centre in Oakland, California?
Eight real Life Reasons STEM Is for Children
Creating real world STEM activities or lessons supplies numerous skills to children of all ages that they can carry with them all their lives. When we boost their thinking toolboxes at these young ages, we would be amazed at what they will accomplish in the future.
STEM is here to stay and is a huge part of our world. We need thinkers, doers, and inventors to make this world a better place.
(1) Observing Real Life Needs
We require children who are highly observant and see what their cities, states, countries, or world needs and zoom on how to create solutions. We should get kids out and about, while looking and noticing everything around them. We should also encourage them to ask questions that would develop their inquiry skills. Equally, we should ask them what they would do to change the world and how they would go about this.
(2) Solving Problems
In continuation of number one, once you see a need, create a solution. Go beyond complaining about what needs doing. Be the one to do it. Let’s embolden our children to be the ones who stand up.
(3) Critical Thinking
This is crucial. Reassuring children to think outside the box and to work without guidance leads to great inventions and discoveries. Critical thinking inspires us to try new ideas, work in exceptional ways, and take chances.
(4) Taking Chances
The previous three steps: observing needs, developing ideas, experimenting with solutions boosts a significant level of risk-taking that lots of children are trained to avoid in the current model of the school system. We aren’t discussing jumping off building. This risk-taking is the willingness to stand up for your ideas, making them happen, and accepting failure as an impetus to trying again.
(5) Going Ahead Through Failure
When I was growing up, one saying that really struck me was, “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” The ability to deal with failure is a crucial skill children must have to navigate through life successfully. Handling failure with calm sets them up to forge ahead, apply critical thinking skills, and try again. Pushing through failure ultimately leads to success.
(6) Communication Is Key
Communicating with others, and this entails asking questions like: What works? What doesn’t work? If we change this will this happen? Multiple ideas synergise into creating answers. Communicating your observations and solutions accurately and effectively, whether through recording data, writing reports, or giving presentations, is vital.
(7) Learning a Process
Science, Maths, Technology and the Engineering design process are necessary for carrying out experiments, as well as communication skills in the process of completing a project from start to finish. These STEM skills on how to research, plan, gather data, design, and draw conclusions are vital to the success of children being solutions providers.
(8) Application of Learned Skills
One question I am asked a lot by children when working with them is: “When will I ever need this?” Well I tell them: One day it could be this piece of information that connects the dots in an examination, an interview, or a perplexing puzzle during a project.
Let’s keep driving the STEM revolution in Africa to lead to our economic prosperity!
Adetola Salau; Educator / Speaker / Author/ Social Entrepreneur / Innovator
She is an Advocate of STEM Education and is Passionate about Education reform. She is an innovative thinker and strives for our society & continent as a whole to reclaim it’s greatness. She runs an educational foundation with the mission to transform education.