Classes in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics provide students with technical knowledge that can be applied to many of the fastest-growing and most influential sectors. While the majority of occupations are growing at a rate of 9.8 percent, jobs in STEM fields are growing by 17 percent each year. Moreover, STEM graduates tend to earn more money even when working in positions that are not directly related to STEM.
In addition to helping students expand their career prospects, STEM studies can equip them with valuable qualities that will likely help them in various areas of their lives. The following soft skills are a central part of STEM courses and are sure to help students fulfill their goals, whatever they may be.
While the ability to think critically in order to solve problems is important both inside and outside of school, it is not a skill that students can easily learn from a textbook. Students are able to develop their critical thinking skills when they have a chance to apply them to real-world challenges, and STEM topics provide ample opportunities for students to delve into hands-on, problem-solving activities. Project-based lessons in subjects such as science and technology help to engage students in the learning process by tasking them with assignments that mirror concepts and challenges in the wider world and, because of this, are clearly relevant to students’ lives.
Through hands-on STEM activities, students learn to ask intelligent questions, form hypotheses, and devise methods to test them and devise solutions to problems. They learn to make intelligent observations that provide evidence to inform their theories, drawing insights that help to increase their understanding of not only academic concepts, but also the world around them.
As students grow older, the ability to question, observe, and think critically to solve problems will assist them in all areas of life, whether one is working in a university chemistry lab, discovering ways to improve efficiency at their place of employment, or making repairs around the house. Equally importantly, STEM topics inspire students to develop a passion for the learning process and encourage them to view the world with a sense of curiosity that will enrich their minds.
Solving problems through hands-on activities provides students with the opportunity to build confidence in themselves and their abilities. As youths learn to perceive problems and conceptualize solutions, they discover that they have the intelligence and resources to overcome challenges, even if they don’t know the answer right away. The project-based curriculum that facilitates the most effective STEM lessons allows students to see their own ideas reflected in measurable successes, which provides them with confidence to draw on in their future endeavors. Moreover, STEM lessons offer students the opportunity and motivation to try new things and broaden their horizons, as they demonstrate the value of venturing outside of one’s comfort zone.
Contrary to common misconceptions, STEM subjects are not the opposite of the creative arts, nor are skills such as critical thinking and mathematics mutually exclusive with creativity. STEM subjects require and promote creativity, as students must learn to view problems from a variety of perspectives and think outside the box in order to solve problems. Lessons in areas such as science and technology often encourage students to brainstorm their own questions based on personal observations. STEM subjects also allow students to communicate their ideas in a variety of ways, ranging from sketches and diagrams to statistical charts and 3D models or demonstrations.
In addition to encouraging students to think creatively, STEM fields such as engineering allow students to hone their skills in visual art forms such as graphic design. Skills such as these will only become more valuable in a world of rapidly changing jobs and industries, where many of the jobs that will be filled by today’s young students do not even exist yet.
In STEM fields, success rarely comes without a great deal of trial and error. As children work to solve problems by testing hypotheses, learning from their mistakes, and fine-tuning their ideas, they learn how to fail gracefully and use missteps to propel their ideas forward. Rather than becoming discouraged when they get an answer wrong, STEM-savvy students are able to use the situation as a learning experience. Hands-on STEM lessons can help students become comfortable taking on challenges without fear of failure, as the most engaging STEM assignments are those that emphasize the learning process rather than the end result.
As students develop crucial skills in areas such as critical thinking and creative problem-solving, they learn how to communicate their ideas and support their claims with evidence. Subjects like math and science require students to use the information presented to them in order to solve problems and defend the solutions. Since project-based STEM lessons often transpire in a team setting, students also learn to communicate and defend their ideas in a collaborative environment. The ability to communicate with others in order to develop new ideas and achieve shared goals, which includes constructively managing disagreements, is a skill that everyone can benefit from throughout their lives.