Teaching Essential Skills at STEM3 Academy
At STEM³ Academy, 21st Century or Essential Skills are inherent in many of our hands-on, project-based activities. Our students learn as they collaborate on projects that interest them, sharing ideas and materials, assisting each other on projects, assignments and builds, and resolving conflicts and disagreements amicably. These skills are also needed during scientific experiments, which often require teams — if not entire laboratories — to share results. Applied tasks such as a robotics build also thrive through cooperation and communication; indeed, a build would be impossible without them, as each team member relies on the expertise and participation of every other. Team members are expected to be considerate, compassionate, and respect their own teammates as well as others. Our curriculum engages students directly, challenges them to participate, interact and overcome personal differences. STEM³ Academy is a leader not only in educating intellectually, but also socially and emotionally.
This approach to learning is based in positive psychology assuming that focusing on strengths and meaning is a way to alleviate everyday social-emotional difficulties. This approach is rapidly being integrated into school systems in which students are rewarded and encouraged for their strengths, opportunities are created to display these, and penalizing students for their “weaknesses” is discouraged. Research has found that inducing positive emotional experiences increases flexibility in problem solving and creativity.
Positive emotions and thought patterns are deliberately created in the STEM³ Academy environment. Group-based activities include identifying individual strengths, as well as those of classmates, writing and sharing experiences of success, identifying moments of positive emotion in everyday life, expressing and receiving gratitude and empathy, and approaching challenges with creativity and zest. They are tasked with not only thinking and feeling positively about themselves but noticing and reminding each other of their own inherent goodness and strengths.
Key Social-Emotional 21st Century and Essential Life Skills Being Addressed at STEM3 Academy
There are many factors we could focus on at STEM3 Academy based on the 21st Century Skills and Positive Psychology literature. A few 21st Century Social-Emotional Skills that we are focusing on are:
1. Self-Management and Future Orientation
• Hope and Optimism
2. Positive Mindsets
3. Belonging and Identity
• Relationship Building
• Community Building
• Personal Identity
4. Interpersonal Skills
• Diversity Appreciation/Cultural Competence
• Conflict Resolution
5. Creativity and Critical Thinking
• Transfer of Knowledge