3 Reasons to Fall in Love with STEM

chemistryIf you’ve never checked out the business news publication Quartz, launched in 2012, we highly recommend it. Headed by Kevin Delaney, a former managing editor at WSJ.com with staff members pulled from Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, the Economist, and the New York Times.

The web-native news outlet has a scrolling feature that publishes recent news and relevant information from across the country. It’s on our morning bookmark, and a great resource for keeping up with national manufacturing news.

Most recent, visiting professor at Bard College, Patty Dooley wrote what we think is an exceptional read, particularly for teachers trying to figure out the best and most efficient way to show kids just why STEM education is so exciting. The piece is titled “How I Convince Teenagers to Love STEM,” and explains how as a professor of general chemistry, Dooley dislodges student perceptions about chemistry and tries to encourage those “wow moments” during classroom demonstration and discussion. She explains that students who haven’t had chemistry before are often the most willing and excited ones to find their “wow moment”: “And their classmates also get caught up in their wide-eyed response to adding two clear, colorless liquids together and seeing a bright yellow solid form in a test tube, or to seeing a green flame when boron salts burn in methyl alcohol or a magenta flame with lithium salts.”

So, without further ado, here are the ways that Dooley “wows” her students into loving STEM.

  1. WOW: Dooley says that in the first class of first semester general chemistry, she introduces students to the four things that science in general does: explains phenomena, analyzes and identifies the make-up of things and how they work, makes new things, and builds the tools to do these three things. When you think about it, it is pretty incredible that science is not magic, and truly does explain how things work. As manufacturing advocates, it’s easy for us to see that this type of awe can also be found in the trades of the manufacturing industry. It is absolutely amazing that this industry literally produces from start to finish a complete product, tool, or machine. Teachers attempting to show students the value of manufacturing can find the same type of “wow” that is inspired by science.
  2. WHY? “I show to my students that studying STEM changes the way we think: It reassures us that there is a valid explanation for what is seemingly inexplicable.” For students interested in the way the mind works, it is important to understand that the value of studying a skilled trade goes far, far beyond just knowing a particular skill, like welding. It’s an entire mindset and way of looking at life, and this changes when students realize that the skilled trades are how and why the world can exist as it does.
  3. WHAT IF? What if STEM was a source of hope instead of a source of fear? Students must understand that STEM is integral to world progression, and that it can make a difference in the way we live and work at a very basic level. Whether that’s science, engineering, math, technology, or any combination of the above, STEM is certainly worth studying– or at the very least, understanding.

photo credit: jypsygen via photopin cc