Over the last couple of years I have talked with numerous people both inside and outside the Jewish community about STEM education. These kind, intelligent, creative people all say the same thing: they feel afraid of STEM because they “don’t know anything about it.”
I’m here to tell you that everyone knows more about STEM than they think they do! Even if they don’t do specific “science experiments,” if you have watched a rocket launch, baked bread, or grown a plant you know about STEM.
A while back I did an in-person professional development session (remember those?) on bringing STEM into a Jewish setting. Many of the teachers at the session had a little experience with STEM. One person was there because when she was in middle school she was told she wasn’t “good at math” and had been afraid of it ever since. I applaud her for coming to the session, despite this. In many settings, math has been equated with speed, and as the foundation for all STEM subjects. At JEdSTEM, we know that speed does not equal success, and that we can explore STEM with more than complex mathematics equations
So much of STEM is life experience. You don’t have to be an expert to explore, create, build, or experiment. We engage in STEM because it helps our minds grow and problem solve.
Our first activity in the PD session touched on ideas of geometry, physics, and engineering. In pairs, the educators built towers out of spaghetti and marshmallows. Little by little, the STEM concepts came out: triangles are strong; we need a wider base to build higher; this is too top heavy, we need a counterweight. This simple and fun activity reminded the educators that they can do STEM activities and that this stage of exploration and creativity is where STEM thrives.
JEdSTEM aims to develop engaged, curious, and innovative Jewish minds for the modern world.