Thursday, February 26, 2015

STEM or STEAM?

 A recent discussion on the acronyms STEM vs. STEAM started me thinking.  Should we lean toward STEM because the Arts are embedded in creativity and problem solving? Should we focus on STEAM because we need to value and acknowledge that technology, engineering, science, and math are not where some will thrive?  They'll grow and come into the fullness of who they are through art, and poetry, and literature, and dance, and music.  My answer is YES - to both. Many children, especially girls, have never been given the opportunity to discover if Science, Engineering, Technology, or Math are a fit for them.  In the past, careers in those fields tended to be gender-specific, namely male.  Art, dancing, literature, drama, and music tended to be dominated by females.  But as teachers, our job is to help kids find out what they're good at, regardless of what that might be, and set in motion the resources and experiences to cause them to grow and thrive in those areas. Have you seen Barishnikov dance?  The technology of how his body moves through space is astonishing.  He engineers his feet to push off and leap through the air, landing in mathematical precision at just the right spot to structure the feelings he is trying to portray.  That's STEM at its finest.  In 1952, Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio, a disease which crippled and killed hundreds of children in previous years.  Children who would have been relegated to a life in an iron lung, or unable to run and dance and play could now have a life full of any sort of artistic endeavors. His work in Science put the "A" back in STEAM for those children.  Nothing thrives in isolation.  Relationship is everything and if we really think STEM and STEAM are different, we've missed the point. They are just variations of a theme - creativity and exploration and thought and imagining.   

Monday, February 16, 2015

Education is Messy

There are some classrooms I enter at my own risk.  There are headphones and cords strewn helter-skelter across the floor.  There are upside down chairs and desks askew. There is trash and pencils and globs of glue, butterflies nets, and hand lenses tossed randomly aside to land where they may.  There are pencil shavings on the floor just outside the perimeter of the trash can and wood chips from outside ground into the carpet.  It's not this kind of messiness I'm referring to.  I'm talking about the messiness that comes when I try to expand the stakes of my tent and enlarge my territory.  I'm talking about how messy it is to call on courage and try something new.  Some are more adventurous than others and are more willing to experience the messiness that comes with change.  My youngest granddaughter is fearless.  She's three years old and will scramble up the side of the rock wall to the highest tower on the playground in a heartbeat, legs and arms flailing wildly, not caring one bit how she looks getting there.  Her sister, a year older, will gingerly climb to the first level, adjust her clothing and hair,  then when all goes well she'll try the second level, and then finally arrive at the top with her sister, neatly and carefully turned out. They both get there, just in different ways and at different speeds.  Dictionary.com defines "messy" as "characterized by a dirty, untidy, or disordered condition."  When I'm learning something new that is way out of my comfort zone it's untidy.  I feel disordered and confused.  It can be embarrassing and unpleasant. I'm a little bit of both of my granddaughters.  I'm learning to flail a bit more wildly, but I still like to stop and take stock of my condition at times, too.  I guess the point is this.  I can stay prim and proper, comfortable in my own skin, set in my ways, stable, secure, safe.  Or, I can let myself embrace the messiness of change, learn, grow, expand and enlarge.  It may mean some hairs out of place and some dirt under the fingernails, but that's okay.  There's always soap and water.  
  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fixed or Growth?

There's a lot of talk these days about a fixed mindset vs. a growth mindset.  Is it possible to have some of both?  I think so.  An important part of personal growth is finding one's voice, knowing who we are, and embracing those things that make us uniquely ourselves.  Should we say, "This is who I am - take it or leave it?"  In a way, yes, but if that means I'm never open to growth, to new ideas or experiences, to new relationships and ways of thinking about things, I have become stagnant and I'm fixed where I am.  A life-long learner must always be interested in expanding one's current capabilities.  If not, we will never discover who we could have been.  On the other hand, there's a great peace in being contented in one's own skin.  After sixty plus years of living I've discovered I like me pretty well.  I'm not perfect and I'm continually growing, but I'm also at peace and that's a wonderful place to be!  Where are you in your journey?