Children are our future. All of the work that we do, whether indirectly or directly, will end up in the hands of the next generation. The future is prevailing generations, and so to create a better future we need to focus on creating more leaders, and innovators. This article is an idea of how we can create better scientists, doctors, artists, writers, educators, you name it; through the analogy of the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. We’ll see how inspiriting children is not the most important thing, and how we can make STEM fields more fun by making them more awesome.
Science, technology, engineering, and math are vital to a prosperous society. Through science we discover how the world works, and with the language of math and engineering we can create technology: tools that help us live and work more efficiently. To create a better and more prosperous future we need to continue the advancement of STEM fields. However, there is a shockingly huge decrease in the amount of children entering these fields. Why, and what can we do about this?
When I look around at how STEM fields are taught, I see a lack of excitement. A lot of people see this, and conclude that we need more inspirational teachers, and/or that we just need more STEM teachers and programs in general. Both of these are important to creating scientists, engineers, etc., but they’re not addressing the most crucial issue: it just doesn’t seem fun.
When the things that we do are fun we are more inspired to learn and imagine how they work. Yet, it appears to me that teaching children “how things work” is valued more importantly than “getting your hands dirty” (active experimentation). Experimentation is defined as a (scientific) procedure undertaken to make a discovery. A game is defined as an activity that is played according to a set of rules for amusement. Both experiments and games require an activity that is approached through a set of rules or guidelines, and the search for discovery can easily be amusing. It is only a matter of perception that separates experiments from being fun games.
Often times, the discovery that is found from experiments produces wonder within children. Wonder is the feeling of excitement and awe we get from something beautiful, unexpected, or just cool. And when we experience things that create wonder, we label them as being awesome. Wonder is having your mouth fall open after seeing the massive fossils of a T-Rex on display at the museum, it’s when your eyes widen at as the big red firetruck hurls on by you, or just looking at the night sky. Wonder itself can inspire children on a path of investigation and inquiry, but other times we need a source of inspiration. Inspiration is the spark to do something, but first the spark needs to ignite wonder. With enough inspiration and wonder, children are going to be full of imagination. Combine imagination with resources and knowledge and through experimentation you’ll have creativity and genius.
Think of it like a rocket ship: Wonder is the fuel, inspiration is the ignition. The interior of the rocket is filled with imagination, resources, and knowledge, and the exterior is creativity. The destination of this rocket is simply to be successful in the STEM or any field. Also, this rocket is a little bit different than the standard image of a rocket; it is actively built in flight. As we become more experienced we acquire more knowledge, resources, we imagine more, create more, and all of this can create more wonder and inspiration. So much so, that the rocket can easily become self-fueled and self-guided to place of great achievement, which is the goal of education.
So how do we create better scientists, doctors, artists, writers, etc.? We cultivate wonder. Creating a spark (inspiring children) is important, but not if there a lot of rockets without fuel. Especially since the same thing that crates the feeling of wonder within one child may not in another. Here’s an example: Imagine that you are trying to inspire a child to become an astronaut, but the child doesn’t feel that astronauts are awesome. Then your inspiration is of no avail. To create a better future we need to make science, technology, engineering, and math more fun by having children participate in or create their own awesome experiments.
This article is an attempt to inspire imagination and conversation in the people who have a huge source of wonder when it comes to making a better future, and educating children. Here are some ideas of how we can work together to cultivate wonder, and create a better future.
Change the perception around experiments to highlight how they really are fun games.
Focus on letting children “get their hands dirty” by actively experimenting or playing games.
Making STEM experiments a societal affair by: creating more science fairs, working together to make more innovative and fun experiments for children undertake, creating STEM walks (like art walks or carnivals), and sharing stories of the massive potential of these fields. If we work together, we will create a better future.