STEAM + Economics + Equity? Strange bedfellows, but oh, how STEAM-EE
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Recently, American educators, students, and citizens have found it necessary to stand up for the protection of science as well as climate change research. Many of us understand that advancing science education and inquiry is vital to the health and happiness of future generations.
Those who joined the Climate March and the March for Science across the country (including in Creative Change’s own Ypsilanti, Michigan) stood against interests intent on suppressing science in the name of “economic growth.” Here at Creative Change, we know this is not only backwards, it presents our students with a zero-sum choice: Have a healthy environment, or have a job. You can’t have both.
It’s simply not true that environmental protection must come at the cost of prosperity. Countries around the world are strengthening their economy while reducing their environmental footprint. The issues aren’t separate, so the academics and policies shouldn’t be either. If we pretend that they are, we’re not only misleading our students, we’re denying them access to the knowledge they’ll need to change false narratives.
An equity approach to STEAM
Adding lenses of economics and equity to science education not only makes learning more effective, it also helps students design solutions to the complex, global problems they are inheriting. (And, if everyone saw the link between science and economics, perhaps the country wouldn’t be so divided over the value of science.)
Think about this:
- Climate change is already affecting the global economy. Do your students understand the local consequences?
- The way we eat has profound impacts on the environment. Can your students identify the true costs and create policies for a local, sustainable food system?
- Renewable energy is on the rise. Do your students know how it can make their own communities more resilient?
If you answered “no” to any of those questions, you’re short-changing your students.
Time to get STEAM-EE
At Creative Change, we believe in getting STEAM-EE. That’s the STEAM you know and love (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), plus economics and equity.
Everyone agrees that STEAM learning is vital for preparing students for the uncertain future of climate change, water scarcity, food deserts, economic inequality and other complex challenges. A STEAM curriculum is an important first step to engaging students with these problems. But on their own, STEAM disciplines are isolated from reality, from your school district, and from students’ lives. It takes economics and equity to put theory into practice and bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world.
This is what STEAM-EE learning looks like:
- Middle school students in a high-poverty district investigate why their community is disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards. They uncover the economic backstory, communicate their research findings to community leaders, and design ecological methods to clean water and soil—all while learning about career pathways linking science, economics, and public policy.
- Elementary students in a rural community explore the natural and human-made resources that support the agricultural economy. Students work with community leaders to create an economic timeline of the community and develop ways to promote the region’s agricultural history as an economic driver.
- High school students explore the “life cycle” of everyday items (such as their phones) to learn the science and economics behind design and manufacturing. Tapping global research on materials science, students design products that support a “triple bottom line” of financial, social, and economic benefits.
A STEAM-EE curriculum is different for every district, because it should be tailored to every location and educational situation. Get in touch today to discuss how your students can get the learning opportunities they deserve.