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A Student’s Perspective on How to Improve Interest in STEM Skills


The Dream It Do It Blog is filled to the brim with stories on why it’s important for students to get involved in STEM classes.

But most of these articles are from a teacher’s perspective or from conferences on STEM education. Isn’t it about time we heard from the students about why they want to be in STEM classes?

In a new article, a Twitter chat about the 3rd Annual USA Science and Engineering Festival led to a discussion about how to improve STEM education and get more kids involved at an earlier age. The great news was that this discussion was being led from the very people who stand to benefit from STEM training: Students in high school, college, even graduate students! So here they are, in their own words, explaining what should be done to make STEM education more enjoyable for students, adapted from Mashable:

  • What killed my interest in STEM education? Memorization. “It would be great if schools allowed kids to solve real problems, to learn by doing,” says Erik Martin. “My education did not aid interest, or work at all—huge failure there.” Schools these days are focusing too much on memorization of equations and information that students are becoming stressed out when they get to their classes.

    Instead of being forced to memorize all these subjects until they become sick of looking at them, students need to be shown the extreme beauty of how these equations and subjects fit together in the real world. Eric knows this firsthand; in his 2013 TEDxRedmond talk, “How World of Warcraft Saved Me and My Education,” Erik described finding resilience, curiosity, and courage in gaming that he’d never had the chance to find in school.

  • Schools should let students conduct scientific research projects—early and often. It’s not the test that will cement a student’s interest in science and math—it’s actually doing a project with science and math that will get them interested. “Student-led research is better than the current education system which advocates rote memorization,” said cancer researcher—and high school student—Jack Andraka.

    Jack found his first research opportunities outside of school by contacting hundreds of university professors for lab space. Param Jaggi, founder of a green tech startup, said, “Learn by doing. Education should not be restricted to a classroom or a textbook. Some science and tech concepts only come to life in the lab.”

  • Your adult teachers aren’t the only teachers in the classroom. If you find yourself stuck on a problem or project and the teacher isn’t around to help, don’t panic: there are classmates sitting right next to you who can help you out. Peer-to-peer learning is a powerful tool that Erik Martin says is “something educational technology often overlooks.” Chances are pretty good that the guy sitting next to you doesn’t understand the problem either. So why not teach each other instead of waiting for an adult to show you how it works.
  • STEM is about satisfying human curiosity. STEM courses are often thought of as gateways to a career as a doctor or engineer. This approach leaves kids asking, “When am I ever going to use this in the real world? I’m not going to be a scientist when I grow up, so why bother?”

    Schools rarely give students a compelling “why care” for science that doesn’t have to do with career paths. But as Jack Andraka puts it, “science satisfies the innate curiosity of humans—however, schools do not teach it this way.” STEM isn’t about finding the right code or equation for a good career: it’s about understanding how the universe works and falling in love with that understanding.

  • Failure is always an option—and life’s built-in educator. Despite the important role of failure in life, school and society tend to “put everything into two boxes: success or failure. But I believe there’s a third box and it’s called Not Trying,” says UC Berkeley University Medalist Ritankar Das. “Fundamentally, everyone harbors great ideas, yet most of us ignore them out of fear of failure.” Failure is always an option: in fact, it’s the only way of figuring out how to make things better in the future!

Personal stories like these are a great way encourage kids to give STEM education a try, and we appreciate Mashable putting this great list together. Success (and failure) stories are opportunities to mentor students and help them reimagine STEM learning and teaching, one inspired student at a time.

Photo credit: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images via Mashable

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