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Vocational Skills, Engineering, and the Importance of Intersectionality

We all know about the importance of STEM education and the STEM workforce, but what we may not understand is the intersectionality of STEM and how it applies to other subjects. Real-world STEM/STEAM applications extend far beyond the classroom, building hands-on skills such as coding, 3D printing, design, and even woodworking. That's right-- a skill we don't include in the curriculum today but has many STEM qualities. A couple decades ago, real life skills such as this were commonly taught as part of a required curriculum, but more recently we have seen a decline in these types of classes. Although schools endeavor to promote STEM in their schools, they fail to see that vocational skills are essential and thus are pulling away from an intersectional approach that helps provide students with a holistic and enriched view of science, engineering, and math.

It is understandable that times change and the essential life skills we teach in school change as well. For example, some believe may not need to teach cursive anymore due to the emergence of computers and technology where people will be typing more than writing. Additionally, some classes such as Home Economics were viewed as gender oriented and are overdue to be revamped. (Check out this article for more examples of high school classes that no longer taught and what they are replaced with.) While some reworking of curricula is necessary to keep up with the times, by removing these classes, students are missing some essentials. For example, while we do not want to push the idea that girls need to learn cooking and cleaning skills in order to be the ideal housewife, students regardless of gender need to know how to cook and clean for themselves, and this is not always being taught at home. The same can be said of other traditional courses such as mechanics and shop., which are STEM at the root. There is lots of science behind building and repairing engines, cooking, and using tools to design products. A dearth of such course offering means students are not only missing out on important life skills, but they are also missing out on the ability to understand the interdisciplinary nature of science.

On episode 21 of the podcast "Let's Go To Space: BLUE-SKY Learning", the Aerospace and Innovation Academy had the privilege to hear from nationally recognized STEM education leader and Einstein Distinguished Educator fellow Stephen Portz. Mr. Portz is a pioneer in secondary engineering and manufacturing education, creating the STEAM Engineering Academy in Brevard County, FL. He has a passion for giving students access to desktop manufacturing technologies and the democratization of product design. While highly passionate about computers and technology, Steve also expresses the importance of interdisciplinary life skills, speaking on the types of skills students are not commonly exposed to in modern classrooms. He also expresses his experience and enjoyment with skills such as woodworking, which have scientific and mathematic elements. These skills have the ability to bring a more well-rounded viewpoint to students caught entirely in a world of technology. Check out the episode to hear more from Stephen, and check out our other episodes, where we have different speakers with different topics each week. We at AIA want to see our students become well rounded adults who are capable and passionate in the real world.

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