Category Archives: education

Anti-intellectual reflection?

The “no homework, read instead” trend continues, even during this time of the school year in which students traditionally prepare intensely for standardized tests.

Some commentators view this shift as an awareness that current academics won’t prepare today’s students for the future. Others say flatly, “It’s another way to dumb down education.”

There is very little data on homework in the primary grades. For older students, homework tends to have minimal impact on academic achievement.

It’s a sticky issue, often overshadowed by emotions.

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STEM, STREAM and STEAM

The importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and STREAM (science, technology, robotics, engineering, math) have been well documented.

That message has gone home with students: statistics show that fewer than one in ten parents want their child to excel in the arts. And yet STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, math) is suddenly being viewed more favorably than in the recent past.

Even coding supporters recognize that applying creativity and imagination are essential if future generations are going to resolve the weighty problems we are leaving behind for the next generation.

Real world lessons

Just a few years ago, I would have been amazed to overhear a mom give a very detailed explanation of the family composting system.

But I wasn’t surprised when that happened, recently.

Many parents have shifted their thinking. Instead of protecting their kids from realities, they are giving them a more grown-up understanding of real life issues.

This is not only happening at younger ages; this “realistic” teaching is often linked to suggestions of how to make our troubled world a better place.

And that’s all good.

A vote for the melting pot

I grew up on the streets of Chicago, where diversity was assumed. Fusion of cultures? Of course.

As the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, I looked forward to Jewish holidays. That’s when our public school population of 800 dropped down to a couple of classrooms – those days were such fun.

Today’s changing demographics bring reflections of our “melting pot” nation to children growing up far outside the city sidewalks where I learned to ride my bike. Social commentators call today’s increased diversity a sign of the “new normal”, but it simply offers our kids a close-up of the world, right outside the front door.

Customizing education

Customization has been embraced as a cultural value.

I guess it’s not surprising, then, that personalizing education is becoming more common.

This fall, an increased number of students will combine online learning with traditional instruction. This blended approach not only seems natural to parents who grew up with technology, but preferred, as our world becomes more digitally driven.

Alternative approaches to education are intended to meet the needs of students with varied learning styles. Now we’ll see if that happens.

STEM camp at home

STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) camps are popular again, but a child doesn’t need to attend a formal STEM program to increase STEM fluency.

Activate your child’s STEM learning by asking your child to predict, observe, collect information or test hypotheses. This can happen when you cook supper, go to a zoo, take a hike or boat on a lake.

Informal opportunities can trigger curiosity and interest as well as classroom settings. STEM learning can happen anytime, anywhere. A parent doesn’t need to be STEM-fluent to nurture a STEM-smart child!

Summer “makers”

Students who spent the school year working with motors, switches and gears as part of the “Maker’s Movement” initiative won’t miss a beat this summer.

Science centers, libraries, museums and even camps are inviting kids to use “real” woodworking tools, circuit boards, and soldering equipment.

“Making” has birthed the next generation of inventors, and these kids won’t stop just because it’s summer.

If your flashlight is missing a battery or bulb, check your preschooler’s light saber.