What is STEM? We can name the letters (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) but as Richard Feynman said, "You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird... So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing -- that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something." Knowing the acronym "STEM" without looking at the whole- without seeing the complexity, how it functions together, and what makes it different and cohesive- we have missed what counts. STEM is more than an acronym; more than a name. It is a way of thinking and visioning that is derived from an understanding of the workings of the natural world. It is about thinking critically, using evidence based decisions, and putting innovative ideas into action. Children engaged in STEM learning are encouraged to look beyond traditional divisions of content and to embrace the fluid nature of thinking when approached with projects, problems, and challenges. STEM learning culminates in innovation- rooted in the values and lenses of STEM fields, children approach new ways of understanding what exists and the skills to solve the problems we don't even know exist yet. STEM recognizes that the future of innovation and solving the worlds most pressing and complex problems will be transdiciplinary. STEM education prepares students not in "knowing facts to pass a test in science or math" but understanding how to think, evaluate, persevere, innovate, create, adapt, learn, unlearn, relearn, and find connections in a dynamic global environment where knowledge is increasing exponentially.
I am one of the lucky ones. I have the chance to work with children, teachers, academics, and others interested and invested in education within a new and exciting educational space of STEM. It requires me to live what I teach students, in that I am always growing, changing, adapting, and finding new and better ways to go forth into unknown places. My resume (CV) clearly bears the marks of my personal conviction to surround myself with energy, continually learn and grow in new directions, follow a passion and not a path, and to thrive in new situations. I have taken enormous satisfaction in finding ways that experiences of my past connect with new facets of my present and future, and I don't shy away from change or challenge.
As a STEM specialist, I am often asked to point the way and I am happy to share my direction. But I am aware that I too am traveling every day with my students, colleagues, and other STEM educators ahead into a future that is ours to create. My bags are packed. Are you coming too?