ESD Seeking Ideas For Better STEM Education

By Lea Wojciechowski

The number of educational theories and suggestions out there is dizzying. Moreover, the ideas thrown around are often in conflict with each other and bring up more questions than answers – What’s the best idea? What will meet the desired metrics of success?  How are we going to implement it? Who’s going to implement it? Who’s going to pay for it? What will help ensure our children have a bright future to look forward to? Are our kids going to have the knowledge, skills, and means to take care of us when we’re old?

Politics and conflicting theories aside, I think we all agree that our educational system is in a state of crisis. Kids aren’t learning what they’re supposed to learn, reading and math scores are terrifyingly low, misbehavior is a problem in countless classrooms, and many high school graduates aren’t qualified to take the jobs highest in supply – jobs in engineering, manufacturing, and other technical fields.

As a follow up to my last post on teaching summer school math to ESL students (see technologycentury.com/2014/07/02/math-and-language-mix-in-esl-classroom), I want to point out the obvious difficulty of answering these questions – and make a few of my own suggestions.  Everyone has a different perspective, it seems, and I am ever grateful for the broadened perspective I have because of my experience as a classroom teacher.  In the classroom, I saw firsthand how difficult the job of a teacher really is.  Teachers need support – both moral support and physical support.  An ESL aide and a technical mentor in the classroom would have helped me – and the students – immensely.  I would argue that all students could use more mentoring, especially if we want them to learn the basic skills as they should.  I brought math games to my classroom, and predictably, some of my students loved them and some hated them.  But most telling, I could see that every student loved the opportunity to get their hands on something.  Today’s students, more than ever, want to see classroom learning connected with the real world.  Why not incorporate at least a few exciting hands-on projects into their education?  ESD’s Engineering SMArT Michigan program is a fantastic option (see ww2.esd.org/EVENTS/smart/index.htm)!

We may not be able to answer the questions that plague today’s discussion of education, but we need to work together to step toward sustainable solutions.  Project Hamtramck, an initiative of ESD and its Institute (see www.esdinstitute.net/hamtramck/index.shtml), is based on trust-centered collaboration.  We are bringing together providers to build an effort to be guided by metrics and the children who deserve to read at grade level, succeed in their K-12 education, and be prepared with the skills they need to enjoy a brighter future.  We are seeking your help!  Any financial, networking, or intellectual support you or your company can provide is indispensable to our work.  Contact lwoj@esd.org or cruss@esd.org to indicate your interest or for further information.

Lea Wojciechowski is Director of Education for The Engineering Society of Detroit’s ESD Institute.

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