The Importance of STEAM Education for the Next Generation
Have you ever heard of a knocker-upper? I’m being serious. This, in fact, used to be a real job: A knocker-upper was a human alarm clock. Back in the 1800s, before there were electronic alarm clocks, a knocker upper was hired to shoot peas at the glass of a window or tap on the glass using a long pole to wake people.
There are endless examples of this – jobs that at one point were ordinary and purposeful but vanished because of advances in technology and automation, thereby eliminating the need for a human component. Others reminiscent of another time yet more commonly known include milkmen (prior to home refrigeration), telegraphists (prior to modern communication tools), lamplighters (prior to electric street lights), and water carriers (prior to underground pipe systems). This trend is rapidly continuing, and the jobs of today won’t exist tomorrow, let alone five years from now, and especially when our students are nearing the end of their educational journeys and entering the workforce. The world is fundamentally changing in ways we cannot yet fathom, making one of the biggest challenges facing teachers how to educate kids for a future that has not yet unfolded and is impossible to predict. This is where modern learning enters the picture.
Why Modern Learning
Dawson’s investment in modern learning requires new thinking and new approaches toward education, one where the focus is taken off of the school of old – the application of rote memorization, a brick-and-mortar learning environment, or a lecture method of learning. Instead, the anchor is placed on the reinvention and reimagination of skills, concepts, and mindsets.
In an information economy, 12 competencies organized into three categories have emerged as some of the most essential 21st century qualifications
the kids of today require in order to remain flexible, versatile, curious, and employable in an ever-changing marketplace:
Learning skills: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication
Literacy skills: information, media, and technology
Life skills: flexibility, leadership, initiative, productivity, and social skills
Dawson would do a disservice to our students if we educated them in the same way we were taught. I don’t know if you’ve frequented a Blockbuster Video since the advent of streaming services or anything, but the world is already completely different than when we were kids. The same is true for pedagogy. Even over just the last few years, the digitization of services and technological advancements have radically reshaped entire industries, modified consumer needs and demands, and tested conventional business models. The landscape of academics is no different, and in order to best educate students in a way that adequately prepares them for the future, schools must stop operating like Blockbuster Video, an outdated organization in a world that has passed them by. It’s what’s best for kids and our global society.
continues to emerge as one of the most effective ways to prepare students for the jobs of the future. The convergence of its five disciplines – science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math – is an excellent example of a holistic, non-linear teaching technique. STEAM allows for learning across different subject matters, the use of varied thought processes, and the authentic application of 21st century skills. Students must use their imagination, innovation, leadership, and critical thinking over a sustained period of time, and when taught in an integrated manner, students learn from these problem-solving and collaborative experiences.
STEAM Career Exhibition
Dawson’s real-world exposure to STEAM allows students to see value in using their creativity, explore diverse social elements through partnerships, develop the intrinsic motivation to succeed through passion projects, and promote mastery of a given subject through commitment and confidence. They research, brainstorm, and hypothesize novel solutions and achieve outcomes that hopefully result in positive and meaningful change. And we start early, embedding STEAM lessons throughout Early Childhood and Lower School so students have a solid foundation once they enter Middle School and are developmentally prepared to take on more profound, actionable projects.
In February, with Middle School science teachers Rachel Ferguson and Dr. Kelly Gooden at the helm, Dawson hosted its first STEAM-based career exhibition by inviting practicing professionals to campus to speak with students about potential job options. The event began with a keynote address by Dawson parent Victor Blanco, a videogame designer who worked for Microsoft on the teams that designed the various XBox gaming consoles. He shared how the evolution of design in movies fueled his love for computer science and technology, and he demonstrated how easy it is for kids to experiment with making their own video games using the math skills they learn in class every day.
We had an incredible turnout from parents and professionals for the career exhibition and were able to showcase for students a wide variety of choice STEAM topics. Areas included medicine and nursing, pharmacology, forensics, ballet, aeronautics, interior design, visual arts, design technology, volcanology, music technology, technology marketing and sales, higher education mathematics, and architecture marketing. Dawson is always in search of community partnerships like the ones highlighted by this exhibition to better support our past, current, and future students. These partnerships enhance our program, can grow into faculty and staff professional development opportunities, and allow students a window into co-curricular programming, internships, continuing education, and upcoming career options.
The modern learning experiences Dawson offers its students is where the deepest, most reflective learning takes place, and with a focus on the future, we want our students to strive for a profession that results in both challenges and enjoyment. Preparing students to be world-ready for when these two collide ensures they remain adaptable and equipped to achieve their full potential traveling any path they choose.
By Rachael Lachhwani