Lisa Olinski of Stamford American School Hong Kong tells Claire Severn why a STEMinn approach to education is the way forward.
If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that our world is rapidly changing. The jobs of today will not be the jobs of tomorrow. So, how do we prepare our children for a future that we don’t yet know?
In its paper Report on Promotion of STEM Education: Unleashing Potential in Innovation, the Hong Kong government explains how a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is key.
First proposed in the 2015 Policy Address and further supported in the 2016 Policy Address, the thinking behind the approach is to provide students with the skills required for the changing needs of society, helping them to not only develop a solid knowledge base but to also learn how to integrate and apply that knowledge across different STEM disciplines.
“A STEM Education is an innovative approach to learning,” explains Lisa Olinski, senior marketing and communications manager at Stamford American School Hong Kong. “Rather than seeing each subject as individual parts, STEM recognises the importance of being able to use critical thinking skills across disciplines to accomplish tasks, just as people do in their jobs.
“Compared to traditional subject learning, which is more teacher led and compartmentalised, STEM education encourages children to inquire and use their higher order thinking skills – it connects subjects together and helps students develop key skills from an early age, laying a strong foundation for the challenging future ahead.”
But what of STEMinn – what does the ‘inn’ part mean? “Inn stands for innovation,” continues Lisa. “At Stamford, we added innovation into the STEM curriculum to take our students beyond a way of thinking and to follow the principles of the design cycle, to create and test their ideas. Having creative solutions is important but being able to test, fail and improve is even more so.
“Children love the STEMinn approach. By digging in and engaging students with what is relevant to their lives and speaks to their interests, we are able to provide authentic learning experiences that guide students to apply science and engineering practices while developing soft skills such as collaboration and resilience.
“From building the tallest towers from toothpicks and marshmallows to designing and creating their own life-sized rovers to collect data from Mars, each project helps them to gain confidence when they see that their ideas can be made into reality and can be used to solve real world problems.
“We know that technology is changing and knowledge can be easily accessed in a click, but what can’t be replaced is creativity and the innovative mind of people. We can’t guarantee what jobs there will be in the future, but by giving children the tools to succeed in a variety of fields, we can certainly help with future-proofing.”