STEM education is not just about teaching more math and science; it is also about teaching in a manner that engages students and fosters creativity, problem-solving, teamwork, analysis, critical thinking, and effective communication. These outcomes are frequently labeled 21st Century Skills because they are core competencies needed in the modern STEM workplace. Mastery of these key skills not only affects performance in the workplace, but also benefits students in many other ways throughout their lives. Critical thought, analysis, problem-solving, teamwork, and communication are necessary tools in everyday life and help us differentiate fact from fiction and hype from reality. The ability to effectively communicate and work with others also permeates society beyond the workplace.
Spokane is blessed with many innovative programs in our schools that are serving as templates for development and delivery of engaging project-based education in science, mathematics and technology. Increased involvement from the business community and the general public is also helping to bring the real world into our classrooms providing students with knowledge and opportunities to work with professionals to solve real-world problems.
Teaching 21st Century Skills is fundamentally different. It requires the teacher to become more of a coach instead of being solely a lecturer. In these models, teachers stimulate inquiry, innovation, and problem-solving; and students learn to develop ideas, test their concepts, refine approaches, and communicate what they have learned to peers and broader audiences. Teamwork is emphasized throughout.
School enrichment programs are also important to the acquisition of 21st Century Skills. Some of these activities occur within the classroom while others extend STEM education beyond the school day.