Project-based learning is not simply a way of learning, but rather a way of working together to solve a problem. It is a strategy that allows students to learn and grow by executing compelling activities that are inspired by real-world problems.
In schools, project-based learning has become a catalyst for a change in STEM education recently. The main idea revolves around learning about science while completing a hands-on project (for example, the slope rescue lesson by The Bold Inventors Studio), resulting in a more effective way of introducing new concepts to students—and not without reason. Since students have been lectured on scientific topics for years through textbooks and worksheets, they are more excited to learn about science and engineering through projects and experiments that stimulate their creative-thinking process more effectively. My own experiences with project-based learning exemplify the impact and importance of it on education.
This year, I am a senior in high school, meaning this is my last year before college. Many seniors tend to take courses like Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc, but this year, I am taking a course called Advanced Scientific Investigations. The course revolves around committing to a year-long project on any topic: computer science, biology, chemistry, quantum mechanics, anything goes. So far, our class has worked relatively independently on our respective projects, and the experience has been refreshing and valuable. Not only do students get to have the freedom to explore their scientific interests and culminate them into a project, they really have to dig into their creative side and come up with new ideas every day. Students also have the opportunity to work with professionals in their fields and enter the Synopsys Science Fair at the end of the year. Some students have even won the state competition for the science fair and won awards for their work in the class. But most importantly, they get to learn about a topic they love with hands-on experiences. They learn about how to target a certain goal, set themselves up for different milestones along the way, organize their work, plan out experimental procedures, and complete a project.
Even in classes not explicitly based on a project, conducting small projects throughout the different units gives students a good idea about how to exemplify what they are learning. Understanding calorimetry becomes much more straightforward when students get to actually do an experiment with a calorimeter and watch chemical reactions occur in chemistry. Project-based learning excites students, while also demonstrating the knowledge they need to know without feeding it through a textbook to them. It is crucial right now that students receive hands-on experience with the topics they are learning about to inspire them to be curious in the future and consistently embrace their creativity. Project-based learning is the new wave of STEM education and will influence a new generation of scientists to advance the field of sciences and technology forward.
There is no doubt that the field of technology wouldn’t be where it is today without the arts involved. The greatest scientific discoveries were in creative domains powered by unusual combinations of technology and the arts and have since led to changes in the field to accommodate other topics. The name STEAM, coined by Georgette Yakman at the Georgia Polytechnic and State University, seeks to involve the arts with technology and show how crucial it is for the students to learn about technology, and as someone who has been involved in the STEAM field for a majority of my lifetime, I believe that the correct path to educating the future of scientists is through the arts.
Teaching STEAM topics can be divided into two general categories: teaching the basic concepts of the topic and demonstrating its applications. In computer science, the basic concepts would be syntax, loops, functions, etc, and for some students, this seems intimidating due to its abstract nature. However, through teaching with applications, students grasp a better understanding of complex ideas while being engaged through artistic mediums. When learning about loops and functions while making a game, for instance, the experience becomes more enjoyable, interesting, and is more easily retained. For instance, Hour Of Code’s computer science lessons for younger audiences almost always incorporate themes that children are familiar with and enjoy, such as movies and video games. Learning about coding while creating a game that moves a Minecraft character is much more effective than the alternative.
In my own experiences with STEAM, I personally have always found learning and working to be more compelling when I combine it with something else I enjoy in a non-technical field. Learning about artificial intelligence (AI) was initially a difficult experience because many ideas were tough to get the hang of. But after combining it with other subjects that I enjoyed, such as music, books, paintings, and more, I found learning about AI to be more rewarding and captivating.
The Bold Inventors Studio's curriculum with projects and experiments for students introduces them to core engineering ideas without being tedious and difficult to understand. Many projects involve themes that engage students, for example, reforestation, space rovers on planets, designing a better lunchbox, and more. Being able to apply these lessons in areas that make more sense makes learning something that students will enjoy doing. STEM topics are definitely incredibly important to our world, but teaching them in a way that is unattractive to younger students who are just beginning to be introduced to abstract topics is ineffective and damaging to STEM education as a whole. Involving the arts in our curriculum is the ingredient to encouraging the next generation to become scientists and accelerating their designing, problem-solving, and creativity.
As a high school student, I happily find comfort in my fellow female peers—whether they are highly involved in speech and debate, newspaper club, or field hockey, all of my wonderful girl friends are skillful, intelligent, and incredibly motivated. However, I often find myself in physics and computer science classes surrounded by boys, where I feel my voice drowned out; I sit in the back corner, often overcast by excited males, ready to answer any question my teacher throws at them. So how can an experience like this (shared by many STEM-oriented girls) be avoided in school? How can we promote STEMinism (STEM + feminism) in an ever-expanding field filled with new technologies and solutions for prevalent problems?
Though this gap has significantly increased over the past couple of decades, women still populate only a quarter of the available, global STEM occupations. In the computer science field, there is a 4:1 male to female ratio, while women comprise 20% of total physicists. In order to minimize these low percentages and decrease gender disparities is aligning/following through with two ideals (1) exposing girls to STEM concepts in their early youth, and (2) learning about exceptional female STEM role models.
The Bold Inventors Studio cultivates a love for STEM fields for all youth. With lessons that are geared towards kids with friendly, engaging storylines, we instill a passion for approaching issues and brainstorming solutions in any student interested! Furthermore, we emphasize that the hero can be anyone, regardless of their gender--whether it be Freya Friction or Marty Motion, anybody can solve any problem in the world with the right attitude, approach, and teamwork!
In a classroom setting, an apparent obstacle is engaging children with seemingly convoluted information. Teaching cellular respiration, for example, solely by lectures and PowerPoint slides can lead these young students lost--and possibly even overwhelmed. How can we approach this hurdle in a world ever-so prevalent with scientific innovation? More importantly, how can we express these concepts in a friendly, captivating manner while also inculcating a further love and appreciation for STEM?
The Bold Inventors Studio utilizes creative, yet methodical, means to promote interest in the sciences and technology. As young children, we were attracted to books and videos splattered with bright colors, bold text, and heartwarming characters. Our whole process begins with an animated story that encapsulates the above qualities, introducing an enticing hurdle that sparks curiosity and a desire to problem-solve among students. Our design-thinking then enables these students to explore creative outlets, ushering experimentation and innovative, tangible solutions.
Though this process is initiated by an imaginative situation, many of the scientific concepts covered are highly applicable to everyday life; The Bold Inventors Studio lessons connect students to the ongoing technological news, as well as real-world problems. Similarly, the engineering design process that the students take part in is heavily utilized by professionals. Whether they are designing a novel, world-class tablet, or redesigning a long-standing kitchen tool, engineers around the world implement brainstorming sessions, repeatedly assessing the pros and cons of fabricated prototypes to innovate a product with maximized potential. Thus, our programs not only provide an outlook on the procedures with which professionals are involved, but also equip students with the thought processes of these STEM-enthusiastic individuals. Introducing and enabling children to toy with these methods further intrinsically promote students’ long-term engagement with STEM.