Going Global with STEM
STEM … the buzzword (acronym) of the day. But why?
Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths = STEM, and this area of study, is being valued more and more by schools and educators, worldwide. The importance of raising curiosity and interest in STEM, making it accessible across age groups, genders, and other minority groups is also coming to the fore. But if one country does one thing and another country something else, how will change ever really happen? The environment doesn’t understand borders; perhaps Homo sapiens should be a little more open-minded too.
As intra-country inequalities in income rise so too do in inequalities in healthcare and education. As a result, social stability flounders. We all have work to do: developed nations have to backtrack on developments made in STEM, as some progress made has been made to the detriment of the natural world; developing nations can implement environmentally friendly, sustainable strategies from the outset. If environmental awareness is hard-wired into the makeup of a society, it will bode so well for a country’s future stability and for its place on the world stage.
STEM in education
It is easy to think that STEM is useful for specific careers and STEM related jobs (engineer, statistician, forester, life scientist … the list goes on) but the reality is that STEM offers students a vast array of life skills: critical thinking, confidence in decision making, presentation skills, learning how to sift through the deluge of information, accurate and not, on the internet, and so much more.
For STEM and non-STEM career paths, even just in one’s everyday life, maths is needed, an understanding of the world around us is vital when making decisions about what product to buy, where to live, what to eat etc.
In summary, STEM education offers everybody innumerable opportunities and skills, and, as we strive for a fairer world, it needs to be available to children from all walks of life.
The beginnings of STEM Ginger Education
After studying an undergraduate degree in Natural sciences and teaching English to children in different countries for many years, I started thinking about how to combine the two: STEM is one thing, language and communication is another. How about combining them?
…and STEM Ginger Education was born…
As I was coming up with the idea of STEM Ginger Education, I was trying to decide what the project would focus on. Many things crossed my mind:
- Oceanography – my favourite part of my studies and it encompasses so much: from the physics of the global conveyor belt caused by thermohaline circulation, to the biology and biodiversity of the deep pelagic ocean floor; then there’s the effect climate change has on the waters of the world: from dying coral reefs to plastic pollution, unsustainable fishing practices to the physics of wave motion. Perhaps I should share my fascination and teach children about the oceans?
- Climate change and environmental awareness – messages are so mixed no wonder action is not consistent across nations. How about getting children from around the globe communicating over environmental matters?
- Girls in STEM … I am a ‘girl’ and I love science – should I focus on encouraging girls into STEM careers?
- Physical / mental difficulties and challenges in learning … an area that I am passionate about and I love working with people who think ‘differently’. I have my own physical difficulties and it frustrates me when one’s physical challenges are defined by society as ‘disabilities’. STEM careers can often be ‘unwelcoming’ to people outside the norm (not that there is any such thing!) so perhaps I should be playing a part in helping minorities feel confident about getting into STEM careers.
- Socioeconomic disparity – again, an area that is skirted around. In developed nations, particularly children from more affluent families are likely to follow careers in STEM, perhaps due to resources available in their place of education; in developing nations boys and children from more well-off families are far more likely to follow STEM career paths, again probably due to possibilities in education but also due to societal expectations within a culture. Maybe these disparities are what I want to draw people’s attention to …
So, with all these super important factors affecting the people that end up studying and working in the world of STEM, my ideas were dispersed, my objectives unclear.
One sunny day in Barcelona, the idea of the ‘Environmental Warriors’ was born – a way to try and reach all of the above mentioned minority groups, raising awareness of the environmental catastrophe that is in full flow and, well, also just arousing interest and curiosity in all things STEM, reaching out to different countries and nationalities through online communication and instruction.
STEM Ginger Education and the Environmental Warriors encompass so much by reaching all children: near and far; rich and poor; neurotypical and on the spectrum; abled-bodied and differently-abled – the Environmental Warriors can take on different shapes, be ‘approachable’ to children with the need of varying degrees of instruction and support, as well as there being a range of activities requiring differing degrees of English ability. Ultimately, STEM should be exciting and inspirational to every child, opening doors and creating opportunities regardless of who you are or where you are from.
For STEM Ginger Education, English is just another tool. The idea of a lingua Franca is not appealing as the beauty and individuality of languages and cultures go hand-in-hand and these should be conserved and valued. However, English is my mother-tongue and it does seem to be an ‘easy’ language (pronunciation aside) to acquire, and it is very much the language of STEM, so I have decided to embrace the usefulness of English as a way of bringing children from around the globe together, communicating about various STEM topics, while raising awareness of environmental matters. There is no better way to learn a language, and to gain confidence with it, than by doing tasks and projects that provide a reason to communicate. Learn more in my next blog post: Clarity and CLIL.
‘Going Global with STEM’ – But why?
To enhance global interconnectivity by building an international community.
Passionate actions grab people’s attention. Collaboration results in change.