Arts are Important

What is STEM?

There is so much talk about STEM in education circles these days.

It is the buzzword of the decade.  But what is it?  STEM is simply an acronym for the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  The sudden focus on STEM education derives from the arising need to compete in the global economy and be at the forefront of innovation.

The modern world is a rapidly changing place.

Technology is developing at record breaking speed. This is not only making what was once impossible commonplace, it is changing the way we live and look to the future.  A race to the top of new ideas and capabilities has become the hallmark of the tech industry.  So, the educational system has sought ways to supply capable individuals to this phenomenon. Hence, the creation and focus of STEM education.

 

Building A Modern School–Science over Here, Math Down the Hall

With the intense focus on STEM, schools have been building up their science and math programs in an effort to provide a better education. Science lab rooms are under construction, course catalogs overflow with new courses in Engineering, Chemistry, higher level Math, and technology applications.

 

The desire for more and more has turned the liberal arts approach to education upside down.  The requirements for graduation include more science and math courses than ever before.  A new wing of the education system, technology education, has spread beyond just typing or using software to teaching coding and digital citizenship.  Classes upon classes, room upon room, the push for an innovative education has remade the face of schooling around the world.

 

What About the Arts?

Science, Mathematics, anything technology related, these are all children need to know–right? Wrong, just as a bridge cannot stand without a foundation, innovation cannot happen without creativity.  The bedrock of every good education is the arts and humanities.

 

Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing–the four Language Arts–are every bit as critical to engineers as to journalists.  These are the skills that build up a culture and bind us together.  The first two are necessary for collaboration and cohesive team work.  The last two essential to learning and documenting discoveries.

Along with Language Arts, the Visual Arts of design and creativity bring the sciences to life.  Engineering innovates the materials and methods, but art supplies the inspiration and beauty to architecture.  Coding synthesizes the blueprint of an app but visual creativity make it appealing and user friendly. The arts and the sciences need each other.  Without the arts, sciences create a gray, garish world of sci-fi horror stories.  Without sciences, artistic pursuits never get off the page and into history.

 

Welcome to the Real World

Just as the arts are integral to scientific advancement, so is the integration of education.  STEM education was never meant to mean a few more lab rooms and a list of mathematics requirements.  Like eliminating arts, this is missing the overarching goal of the STEM approach.  By integrating the subjects together in real world applications, students are given the roots and wings to soar in the current climate of global, rapid, technology advancement.

The opportunity to learn these skill sets and disciplines is vital to a good education, but should not mean simply tacking on more.  In the world of innovation, working together with people of all disciplines, using the knowledge learned from all coursework is what fuels the advancements of tomorrow. One People, One Planet

How do you build a bridge?  With mutual respect, understanding, and firm foundations of education.

How can you bring the world of education together to lead to a brighter future?

Boredom has its' own value.

The Value of Boredom

When the Activity Ends

School is out and the exhilaration of not having anything to do has already worn off.  How many children have complained, “I’m bored!” just days after summer break begins?

 

Pinterest is full of “boredom buster” ideas and tutorials.  Local libraries ramp up their offerings to accommodate the aimless and bored children.  Then there are camps for every interest and skill under the sun.  None of these are bad ideas, and each has value in its own right, however so does boredom.

Going, Going, Going

We live in a “let’s entertain me” culture.  The children of today are not only inundated with television in every public place, but have grown up in organized play for the most part.  While generations past ran outside to play with the neighborhood kids and didn’t return until dusk.  Today’s generation is most likely to only play at scheduled playdates or organized sports.

 

Boredom is the dreaded disease of down time.  It is something that needs to be cured, immediately and effectively.  Parents are often worn down trying to keep every moment interesting and engaging for their children.  Have you ever wondered what’s the worst that can come of boredom?

 

But What Will We DO?

True, idle hands are the devil’s playground, but idle minds are fertile ground waiting to bloom.  If there is no down time how will new ideas be explored, let alone formed?  Boredom may be uncomfortable at first, but it is a necessary distress.  Once the entertainment ends, we are left with ourselves.  It is just us and our mind.  What will we think?  What could we do?

 

Our pace of life is extremely busy.  We are on the go so much and hardly stop to smell the roses.  It is difficult even for adults to find themselves with nothing to do.  On the other side of uncomfortable, though, is innovation and creativity. We need to be bored sometimes.  According to Andreas Elpidorou of the University of Louisville,  “In the absence of boredom, one would remain trapped in unfulfilling situations, and miss out on many emotionally, cognitively, and socially rewarding experiences. Boredom is both a warning that we are not doing what we want to be doing and a ‘push’ that motivates us to switch goals and projects.”

 

Sweet Summertime

 

Summer break is the perfect time to practice boredom and see where it leads.  In the absence of noise, distraction, and obligation the mind is allowed freedom to wander.  In the wandering, the brain relaxes and switches to creative problem solving mode.  New ideas take shape and the person finds something to do.  Not something he has to do, but something he wants to do.  Boredom allows you the freedom to discover your true passions and evaluate your likes and dislikes.

 

In fact, psychologists suggest that it is most beneficial for children to have a “boring” summer.  In the doldrums of inactivity, they are afforded the opportunity to self-motivate.  This motivation allows freedom to discover not only the world around them, but the one inside their own head.  If adults are always prescribing and directing what a child should do, how will she ever know what she wants to do?

 

Facing boredom head on and pushing through it, is “developmental achievement” for children.  Even the sulking at being bored has value.  The children are not wasting their time but taking their time.

 

In The Conquest of Happiness, Philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote, “A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety of impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them as they grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony.”

 

So, the next time your child comes to you with the age old gripe, don’t rush in to save the day.  Instead, encourage him to sit a while and just relax, explore something new, or lie down on a blanket under the clouds and just daydream.  Resist the temptation to rush him on to something new.  Let the effects of boredom run their course. His mind and your summer will be better for it.

 

What have you discovered while being bored?

Coding for Math

Technology in Education

Tool or Hindrance?

 

It seems that everywhere I look, I see kids with technology. Like many, I have had mixed feelings about this increased presence in the hands of younger and younger children. I paid for my own cell phone as a teen and young adult, but my child has one as part of her every day tools. Granted, she is an avid reader and I have found that the gas and book money I save by being able to check out books and download them to a cell phone covers the cost of the plan she has. It is still a huge difference from when I was young.

Recently, I watched a video on Facebook that equated technology usage to cocaine for children. That is a jarring comparison, especially coming from the After School Special and DARE generation. It caused me to question if there is a way to find harmony between Technology and my children. Can technology be a helpful tool without the harmful effects?

Math and Programming?

 

In my search, I came across a blog by Jonathan Mugan a researcher and author. You can read it here. In his post, Dr. Mugan walks parents and educators through a “how to” in order to use programming to teach our children Math. It seems like fun to me, and I am not all that interested in programming! Disclaimer: This is probably because I LOVE to learn.

This fantastic blog post walks the educator through using Python and how to effectively teach basic arithmetic on up to PEMDAS and Variables. I can see where this could be useful for many kids! It is also an excellent example of technology being used effectively to teach.

 

Back to my child…

 

We had a rough school year and Math was often a struggle. Do you remember the Summer Slide post? This can also be an effective tool in a parent’s arsenal to combat it! I can’t wait to set this up for my mini me to work through. It will break up the usage of the Kahn Academy, which we are on daily and also will provide a new skill. Who knows, could this spark a “First Moment of Lasting Excitement?” Will a new path to software programmer begin?

 

In reality, anything that I can use as a tool to educate could also be abused and turned into a problem. As Dr. Mugan shows with his blog post, Technology can absolutely help with education. In fact, programming to learn Math is Innovative and could be Transformative for many. This could be a child’s “AHA Moment”.

 

So, go check out the blog post and maybe take some time to learn how to program! Consider joining our voyage if you have not already!

Virtual Field Trips

Virtual Field Trips Part 2 – Making the Learning Stick

Make the Learning Stick

 

On a traditional field trip, teachers or venues often provided scavenger hunts, worksheets, group projects, or memory pages for students to bring home a bit of the experience and solidify what they learned.  Virtual field trips take it a step further by often connecting you to social media groups that extend the experience, games, quizzes, and follow-up projects.

It has never been easier to give your students the world, and have them remember where they went.  When students are engaged, their potential soars.

Be Prepared

While virtual field trips take a lot of the prep work off of the teacher by providing links and apps for further learning, there is still preparations that must be made before embarking on an adventure. One of the chief tenets of teaching, like the Boy Scouts, is “always be prepared.”

  1. Check that all audio-visual equipment and available technology works properly and can sync together to provide a total experience. Flying over the Savanna is amazing but sound would definitely improve the journey.
  2. Click on every link and make sure that it is active and accurate. The Internet is always changing.  The “trip” you want to take may have been created four years ago, which is like ions in the digital world.  It may still be a worthwhile venture, but you want to be aware of what aspects work and what doesn’t.
  3. Make sure all content is appropriate for your study and students. Just as there are always changes, there are pitfalls on the Internet, namely seemingly innocent links that take you to malicious downloads or sites.  Ensure that your trip will be a safe one for your technology and students by previewing all the links and content before introducing them.
  4. Create a list of recommended reading and “surfing” for after the field trip. Make up a follow up activity list with books available from your school or local library, websites with additional information, and/or apps the correlate to the subject matter presented.
  5. Set the stage and the schedule before you depart. Even though there is no physical traveling involved, virtual field trips still need an itinerary and time allotment. Is there a way to clear the whole afternoon for your class?  Do you only have students for 40 minutes? How many class periods will it take to complete the entire field trip and follow up activities?  Are there any supplies, such as colored pencils or astronaut ice cream that would enrich the experience?  Make sure that you treat this trip as you would one that requires permission slips and plan well.

 

Optional Extras

 

If you have the time and resources, there are some fun extras that could really make a virtual field trip come to life.

 

  1. Have a picnic lunch. Ask your class to brown bag it on field trip day and set up a picnic area inside your classroom or on the school grounds.
  2. Add the local flavor and music. Are you going to a foreign land or region of the good old US of A?  Consider having a potluck of local fare.  Hand out recipe options a couple weeks before.  (Please, take into consideration allergies and have all food labelled) While you dine, listen to some regional or cultural music via an mp3 player, computer, or phone.
  3. Set up shop! What is a highlight of every trip?  The gift shop, of course.  Sell pencils and erasers that match the theme of the trip.  Print out bookmarks or activity packets.  Use as a class fundraiser or have students cash in points earned during the regular school year.

 

Can’t Find What You Want? Create Your Own!

 

“Pre-packaged” jaunts are great resources but no one says they are the only way to go.  Create your own tailored to your needs and curriculum. With a little bit of effort and a few clicks of the mouse, you can create memories to last a lifetime.

  1. Consult Pinterest for activities and photos.
  2. Find a relevant video on Please, remember to pre-screen entire video AND the suggestions that pop up at the end. Certain surprises are never welcome.
  3. See if there are any related organizations, tourist bureaus, or foundations with informative sites. These may also be able to provide you with additional literature or free items for your gift shop.

 

Where would you take your students if even the sky weren’t the limit? Have you taken a virtual field trip?  How did it go?

Consider bringing your class or going on our global voyage this October!

Education Across Borders

Education Across Borders

Education is the key to breaking free from poverty. It provides the means necessary to rise above circumstances and make a better start for the future.  Knowledge is power and millions of children are left powerless through a lack of educational opportunities.

 

At the same time, where education abounds, it is important to remember to educate the entire person.  Memorizing facts alone is not what helps to create leaders and innovators.  Children need inspiration. They need to move outside their comfort zone and be able to work on a team.  However, the greatest skill that children must learn, if we want a brighter tomorrow, is compassion.

 

Education Across Borders (EAB) serves some of the poorest people of the world.  Centered in the coffee farming region of the Dominican Republic, EAB is working to change the lives of those who so desperately need hope for the future. Their greatest asset, though, is that they teach the lessons of empathy, multiculturalism, and hard work to American students and adults in the process of improving lives in Dominican Republic.

 

EAB’s primary focus is education and community building.  Through projects that provide sanitation, scholarships and greater access to education, and adequate housing, EAB has been serving the areas of Batey Libertad and Franco Bido for 20 years.

 

In the Dominican Republic, 42% of the population lives in poverty and only 10% of children graduate from high school. Yet, it is an area ripe for the best educational experience for groups of young people.  Through the Immersion Program, groups of teens and young adults perform short term service projects that have lasting results.

 

The Pentecost Project immerses participants in the realities of poverty and teaches them how to work together with community members to fill dire needs.  The futures of both residents and immersion volunteers are forever changed as the projects provide housing, sanitation, and health care.  The greater gift is “the hope of conscientization: developing the critical consciousness (of self, and of local and global communities) to understand the roots of injustice and oppression, in all forms, as well as the ability to convert compassion into action for the common good.”

 

EAB is not only building bridges between American teens and Dominican residents in the communities they visit.  A flip side of the education is the Community Exchange program that brings scholarship winners from both Batey Libertad and Franco Bido together to experience each other’s towns.  Though these two towns are not geographically distant, this trip is far reaching in scope.

 

Scholarship winners have the opportunity to integrate, understand each other, and bridge gaps between the poor coffee farmers and the children of Haitian workers seeking a better life.  The barriers of misunderstanding and marginalization are being toppled as the rising leaders of these regions learn to overcome discrimination.

Education Across Borders is at the head of the class for mitigating positive change in the world.  There is much to be learned from their models and practices that teach best through working hands and open hearts.  The epitomy of “One People, One Planet.”

 

Have you ever worked beyond your comfort zone to help in a culture much different than your own?  How did this experience better prepare you for your future?

Hovercraft and Education

Hovercraft and Education

I was recently on Twitter and came across videos of science classes that were racing hovercrafts as part of their lessons. It reminded me of my daughter’s third grade class. Students were divided into small groups and taught how to design a robot. They then got to build the robot and the student groups raced them the last week of school. This was genius! Not only did the children learn about robotics but they had to work as a team and build something.

 

After seeing the Twitter post, I went and looked up more information about students building hovercrafts. I came across a short article in Popular Mechanics.  It is great that a well-known magazine would talk about something (like teaching technology students how to build hovercraft) and a few years later schools from all over are replicating it. Sometimes, we learn better by doing.

 

In some parts of world action is still how students learn the majority of their knowledge. In industrial countries that call to action in the classroom is a key to innovation. Rather than learn about coding software through a book or someone yelling to a student, students get on a computer and code. The difference between these two methods is the first is teacher-centered learning and the second is student-centered. This visual by Paul Curtis offers a better explanation.

 

Who knows if by participating in this learning activity, a future designer for Toyota, Ford or Mercedes is created? Who knows if participating in designing or building a hovercraft or robot is going to spark excitement that lasts a student’s lifetime? Who knows if by participating in this learning activity, a future designer for Toyota, Ford or Mercedes? Previous Global Learn Day presenter, Dr. Terrence R. Redding, shared his thoughts about this when talking about “The First Moment of Lasting Excitement”. You can learn more about that here!

 

This is more of what Global Learn Day celebrates! Education opens doors, it excites us and helps us learn who we are and where we belong. Education builds a bridge to a better future. Across the globe, we are a learning people. We share our previous experiences and hopefully, we learn from them. Education, and our thirst for knowledge, is what helps us to unite and become “One People, One Planet”.

What excites you about learning? What incites you to learn more?