More than “just” STEM careers

Rikke Bergreen Paaskesen,
Curriculum specialist and Educational advisor
Odense, Denmark

In this month’s blog post, Rikke reflects on Bianca Barratt’s article, published by Forbes in late January addressing How To Get Young Girls Excited About A Career In STEM.

It seems to me that girls have plenty of opportunities to develop and nurture their passions, interests and abilities in STEM.

And while I agree with Bianca that:

“We often unknowingly and unintentionally encourage young children into stereotypic roles by decisions we make on their behalf that play into traditional expectations; being aware of that tendency is the first step in changing our behavior to give them all the opportunity they deserve”

I believe that giving children and young people the opportunities that they deserve is not just a question of how to persuade them that a STEM career will be in demand on the job market they will later confront.

Show students perspectives of the world they might not have considered

From an educator’s perspective it is also as much a question of how to combine the broader interests of young people into academic subjects, and to show students new perspectives on the world, that they might not otherwise consider or have not yet been thinking of.

Many girls at primary school love to tell stories, draw or play with characters, so why not combine these interests with science or robotics classes? A multi-disciplinary approach not only engages more students but also nurses creative thinking. And adding dimensions of storytelling and arts often opens up for cross-cultural learning as well.

Students can design and create story characters from well-known stories, that are already part of the existing curriculum content, and let these characters play a role while using technology. Why not have the math teacher and the language teacher work together, having both subjects addressed while working with technology in the classroom. Children’s creative and academic abilities can be triggered by addressing and encouraging students to address either social, cultural, environmental, or ethical problems and challenges, having “objects to talk with” while arguing for answers to these challenges. Robots as objects can play out figures or roles that can address such issues in a playful and imaginative way. And students can think of answers while practicing hands-on activities with technology. Furthermore, students can practice project work around personalities like Ada Lovelace, the first person to be a coder 200 years ago.

So with the future demand for careers that don’t even exist yet, let’s try to combine these broader multi-disciplinary approaches to all students in the classroom and give them the opportunity to get excited about this area of learning.