We’ve been hearing buzz about STEM and STEAM education for some time now, but it’s not yet old news. In fact, some school districts are still trying to figure out how to implement these programs. Most educators support the concept, but project-based and experiential learning are at the core of STEAM education, and many educators lack the resources they need to incorporate them into the classroom.
Business leaders should find ways to support STEAM education in schools because most innovation requires a solid understanding of these subjects. To stay current and competitive, all businesses need to continue innovating with a customer-centric approach. And the ability to conceive an idea is not enough; inventors must be able to take an idea from conception to production. Individuals with both a business background and fluency in technology, engineering, and math will be valuable in the workplace.
Because students, educators, and businesses all benefit from improving STEAM education, working together to strengthen education serves everyone. MDR works across industries to help businesses understand school’s pivotal role in our future, and with the right strategies, businesses can support education and leverage its dividends.
Challenges and Solutions
Educators are faced with an incredible responsibility: preparing students for a variety of careers, some of which might not even exist yet, often with minimal resources. Whether a student wants to become a scientist, a manufacturer, or a business executive, he or she needs to be able to execute projects that apply theoretical knowledge to real-world activities. Being able to do this benefits students by showing them how a skill is valuable and giving them the tactile learning opportunities they need. It also allows students to work increasingly independently and gives educators the ability to coach them one-on-one.
When businesses team up with educators, they can invest in their own future by shaping tomorrow’s workforce in a number of ways:
1. You can’t be what you can’t see.
Ask students to name careers in STEAM fields, and they’re likely to stall out after “doctor” and “engineer.” When businesses team up with teachers, they can show students what’s possible. Businesses can plant seeds of interest and get students started down these paths at a young age.
BrainPOP, for instance, developed a “Creative Coding” curriculum to teach students the importance of coding in a fun, relatable way. Users learn to integrate coding into everything from science projects to art exhibits, and they realize the far-reaching applications of a STEAM education.
Resources like these are why MDR strives to connect businesses with schools. When companies provide applicable resources to educators, they show students how they can use math outside of school and open countless doors for future generations.
2. Bring the outside world into the classroom.
Piquing a student’s interest is only the first step. Companies should also provide students with hands-on opportunities outside the classroom. This gives students the ability to experience real-world application of STEAM and consider a career in a field they might not have previously known.
Some businesses are already taking initiative. In 2016, energy entrepreneur Michael Polsky granted the University of Chicago a $35 million endowment to fund the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. At the Polsky Center, students can join research teams, develop original products in a prototyping lab, and even participate in regular hack nights.
These kinds of opportunities give students an outlet they’ve likely never had, benefiting even those not studying a STEAM-related subject. This way, companies can help train future workers to understand their future responsibilities and remain passionate about them.
3. Offer professional development opportunities.
Admittedly, none of this means anything if teachers feel unprepared themselves. After all, teachers are the ones interacting with students every day, so they need to be coaching to teach their students
To combat this problem, Texas Instruments spent last summer providing schools with new STEM-related materials. The company’s “STEM squad” offers educators interactive lesson plans, webinars, and other resources to turn any classroom into a hands-on learning environment. TI even has an Education Technology division dedicated to developing these materials.
Every company, regardless of its size and location, can play a vital role in supporting STEAM initiatives in education. Businesses should realize that teachers are a valuable influencer in a child’s future.
When businesses partner with educators, students are exposed to a wider variety of career choices and can be molded into the leaders they aspire to be — the leaders we need. It’s a win-win situation: Educators want their students to succeed, and companies want the brightest employees possible. By forming an alliance, businesses and educational institutions can both excel. Get ConnectED to schools with MDR.