In 1996, the NSF (National Science Foundation) report Shaping the World of the Future on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) as a learner-centred approach to education found it to be a method that actively cultivates students' ability to think independently and innovate. Initially, STEM education was only taught in high schools (grades 8+). In 2009, US President Barack Obama expanded STEM education to encompass the entirety of school from kindergarten to grade 12, which caused a lot of social repercussions.
STEM education promotes interdisciplinary problem-solving skills
When STEM education began to spread, there were indeed various difficulties. A lot of people could not wait to try it out. Knowing very little about STEM education, many just did a science experiment and thought that that was all there is to STEM education and that they had finished the concept, but they were very wrong. STEM education is an interdisciplinary education that focuses on cultivating future children's problem-solving abilities, which has a great impact on children‘s futures. For example, when Elon Musk came up with the idea of going to Mars, the interdisciplinary fields of science, technology, engineering, and math were mixed together.
Defining STEM standards
The STEM.org association in the United States has conducted in-depth research on STEM education in order to define standards. It established an accreditation system with course certifications as orientation for people - STEM.org Certified™, an accreditation programme for schools or organisations - STEM.org Accredited™, an authentication system for manufacturers or software developers for toys and games - STEM.org Authenticated™, and a validation system for publishers to publish STEM.org Reviewed™ books, videos, or curriculums. These systems are designed to define a certification standard and provide orientation for organisations or individuals who do not know how to distinguish STEM standards.
Promoting STEM in Taiwan
Taiwan's Ministry of Education set its 108 Curriculum Guidelines ten years ago and officially started promoting STEM in 2019. In fact, compared with other Asian countries, the introduction of STEM education in Taiwan started later than other nearby countries. Nowadays, STEM education in Asia – including China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Macau – is very active. The Japan STEM Education Association and the Asian Association for the Education of STEM in Taiwan are working very hard to promote STEM education.
STEM Toys make learning fun – 3 examples
Teachers and children can be introduced to STEM education easily with the help of STEM toys. These are a great way to start:
1. Bakoba floating blocks
Have you ever seen a building block that can float on water? Bakoba is a set of building blocks from Denmark. The best part about Bakoba is that it allows children to construct various works of art with sticks and its unique EVA material. Enterovirus is a real problem in kindergartens, but Bakoba can be easily put into the washing machine and cleaned. What's more, Bakoba can also be combined with Lego through adapter components, which is a very diverse kind of building blocks! (Bakoba)
The newméro bricks provide a very simple way for children to learn mathematics. Children can play the game of Ten Friends with them. The concept of the newméro bricks is to turn the abstract decimal number system into a physical playing and learning experience. (newméro)
Kindergartens in Taiwan generally use a set of building blocks called Plus-Plus is well-known internationally. Its simple double cross design allows children to easily combine the pieces, allowing them to start to understand the concept of going from 2D to 3D. Recently, Plus-Plus launched a new series called Plus-Plus Go! The company made an interesting addition to its line-up by designing wheels that can move. (Plus-Plus A/S)
All three sets of bricks are from Denmark, just like Lego. How is it that Denmark produces so many interesting building blocks? It turns out that Denmark does not get much sun, and the sun goes comes up late and goes down early in winter, leading to short days. So children can play quietly at home, parents have developed many innovative toys. There are also many STEM kindergartens in Taiwan that have added these building blocks as their teaching tools, so that children can have a nice understanding of STEM. STEM toys prove that learning is fun.