In a prior blog post, Mark Haugen challenged us to improve our programs by changing a habit. I'm taking a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) called Creative Problem Solving. It's a way to learn more about sparking creativity in our youth, (a 21st century skill) and maybe to become more creative myself.
Results tagged “Rebecca Meyer”
The Minnesota 4-H program is increasing efforts to enhance science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) program opportunities, specifically focusing on the E -- engineering and the engineering process.
What is the engineering process? This is National Engineers Week, and it seems important to explain how the engineering process is different from, but related to, inquiry. Inquiry is about asking questions in depth. It has these phases: sparking curiosity, articulating curiosity into questions, systematically investigating questions, interpreting the meaning of results, and improving ideas and explanations.
When it comes to program goals, what is the relationship between inventiveness and engineering content? I am working on strategies to engage youth audiences in engineering education. While searching for effective curricula to facilitate inquiry learning through hands-on activities, I reviewed the Design Squad Invent It, Build It curriculum. It suggests that invention is about "making the world a better place." Struck by this definition, I started to wonder if or how "invention" is different from or related to the engineering process.
Digging a little, I find that engineering is the systematic process of solving problems (using science and math skills). Invention, on the other hand, is the creative act of making something new - the critical step that actually solves problems. The "necessity," that is often cited as the "mother of invention" sparks the engineering process. Likewise, the engineering process feeds creative invention. After mulling it over, I believe that the two are different, but inherently linked.
Through play, children are natural scientists, but few adults carry that playful curiosity and investigation into adulthood. This is pretty well documented. The scientist Carl Sagan said, "Every kid starts out a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact."
I've long had a vague feeling that a connection exists between my seemingly disparate work on nature play, environmental education, science and engineering. My struggle has been to make a cohesive theory from them. I had a moment of clarity as I stumbled into the idea that "messing about in the outdoors" is in essence a foundation for motivating interest and skill in engineering design and science inquiry. I realized that childhood play involves self-made, intrinsically motivated activities that sow the seeds for science inquiry.
Have you ever seen a youth program that tried to do too much in the time allotted? Or one that was all about engagement but lacked learning outcomes? Finding the balance between these is key to good program design.
Here are two relevant examples from my own family: My twin 3-year-old boys participated in a day camp experience focused on camping. Each session was 90 minutes in length. During the first session, the instructor involved the children in learning about: each other, the instructors, basic components of a camp pack, how to put up a tent, how to prepare camp snacks, and hiking in the woods. For the age of participants and the amount of time available, the program tried to cover too much ground. In contrast, my six-year-old son had ecstatic reviews about a class field trip to a new museum, could not describe a single thing he had learned, even though we probed.
Last month, I presented an online webinar titled, "Natural Spaces: A Place for Positive Youth Development." In it, I talked about four research-based design principles that I believe can improve the ways that our programs connect youth with nature:
1. Situate programs in youths' favorite outdoor spaces
2. Integrate more free play
3. Plan developmentally appropriate environmental learning activities, and
4. Use nature design principles
In his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv used the term "nature-deficit disorder" to describe the alarming lack of connection between American youth and their natural environments. Other researchers have documented the multiple ways this nature-disconnect is contributing to negative outcomes for children. An article in the popular Sports Illustrated describes Americans as becoming "indoor people".
Today, lots of nature program efforts are focused on this "nature-deficit." However, I wonder how we can make the most of these beneficial nature settings for youth. How can we use nature settings or nature spaces to cultivate positive youth development?
Happy birthday to camping! Over the past 150 years of organized camping in the United States, we as a field have done a good job of transforming camping into an educational experience in outdoor group living with measurable positive outcomes. Research shows that a well planned youth camp improves self-esteem, environmental awareness, peer relationships, and has other measurable positive outcomes. However, we often leave these outcomes at camp, and fail to build upon it. By thinking of camp as a stand-alone, situational learning experience, we miss an opportunity to capitalize on the gain. How can we make the most of what we work so hard to achieve at camp?