Want Systemic Change for the STEM Movement? Just "Salt The K12 Hay!"

RE@L1 logo_Corp_color_RGB-high-REZRemember that old saying: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”? We used to hear that in the Teacher’s Lounge during our teaching days. It’s true, too, that you can’t teach kids who don’t thirst to learn more. But, hang on! There was a retort to that old saying, “You can make a horse drink if you salt their hay.” We need to make our young learners today thirsty for more learning and more doing, so let’s start “salting” it.

stemMainYes, there’s learning for it’s own sake, but most K12 kids aren’t mature enough to grasp that yet. What if they knew there were good, satisfying, challenging, well-paying jobs out there with their own name on it? But you needed a good STEM education to get themNow that could make them thirsty for more learning.

Well, folks, that’s what STEM can do in K12: Get those kids ready for when opportunity knocksMany jobs today require Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and they are going begging these days to be filled with competent employees. In short, there are more good jobs for young men and women out there today than well-trained graduates to take them.

STEM1Many out there believe that STEM is a movement in our schools to educate first the best and the brightest, and then alert those elite kids to careers that fit their many talents. Nothing could be further from the truth!  STEM does not require academic brilliance, only the desire to learn more hands-on, lifelong skills for the panorama of many and different employment positions out there.

We need to address the STEM goals for ALL the kids in our K-12 schools; in ALL schools; in ALL states, ALL across our entire K12 education system.

If we truly believe that, then how do we create the Systemic Change in our K12 schools required for the STEM Movement?

STEM2Here are some fundamental assumptions for it to happen:

1) Classroom learning must be opened up to the STEM curriculum,

2) Students must be provided with real-world field experiences,

3) Opportunities for kids to work with actual professionals in their everyday work must be provided, too.

STEM Investigations

Making this happen will require schools, teachers, administrators, parents, and kids demanding and getting the STEM tools needed. Today, many financial resources already being directed toward STEM research in higher-ed. Some of these funds must be redirected to help provide the K12 classroom tools and training. Higher-ed, K12 and the World of Work need to work together!

To ensure that these resources reach the teachers and kids, we need a new system of “one click away for content to deliver these needed materials to classrooms, teachers, kids and mentors everywhere. And, it must also be augmented by readily accessible teacher training services that focus on a new instructional models. Teacher training must complement and connect classroom-learning with field-experiences and practicing professionals. RE@L knows how to do this!

This new STEM learning model assumes basic skllls are taught, but does not stop there. Those basic skills are then put to work in real-world, project-based learning, complete with hands-on, collaborative programs to explore, research, examine, test, measure and do. Just like what happens in the real world of work.

RE@L believes the real world of work needs to connect with the real world of learning too… in K12 classrooms everywhere.

So, salt the hay! Lead them to water! Whet the appetite of our learners and teachers everywhere with the real world change that STEM provides ALL our kids. RE@L is here to help!


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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.