I was ten years old. Fifth grade. I remember going out on the field for recess . It was an incredibly windy day that afternoon; the kind of wind where you could almost lean forward into the gusts and you didn’t fall down. Buster Keaton style. I got this crazy idea that I would attempt to stop the wind. I grabbed two sticks from the ground and climbed to the top of a large hill adjacent to the baseball field and playground. I stood at the top of the hill, closed my eyes, and willed the wind to stop blowing. Nothing happened. I raised the sticks high above my head and the wind intensified. What was happening? Instead of stopping the wind, I seemed to be able to make it stronger! I opened my eyes, looked up to the clouds, and began waving the sticks in chaotic, semi-circular motions. The wind matched my movements with subsequent larger and larger gusts. I stood on top of that hill for probably 30 minutes believing, truly believing, that I was controlling the weather. Looking back, I’m sure the teachers on recess duty thought I was a strange kid. My classmates probably thought I was insane; but for those 30 minutes, I felt that I had the power to control the wind.
After recess, I held on to that feeling. If I could control the wind and weather, I could change the world!
Fast forward. Today, I have the privilege of working in public education. Too often, I see teachers delivering curriculum to students. Teachers teach. Students sit and listen. This model has existed for over 300 years, and was never designed for for equity. Yes, every child deserves an equal chance at success and everyone is capable of achieving their own version of success. However, public schools continue to limit students in their imaginations and abilities to use their knowledge to make actual change.
As a non-conforming teacher, I mentored students, helping them find their voice in order to change their school, community, and society. I motivated my students to greatness. Every “Can we?” question was answered with “Why not!” Now, as an Elementary STEM and Innovation coach, I am charged with creating the best learning experiences possible for students. I want students to believe, actually believe, that they have the ingenuity, creativity, and perseverance for engineering real solutions for real problems. Why can’t even our youngest students work to address global challenges? Why can’t students offer differing perspectives to problems? Why are teachers not harnessing innovation skills through innovative leadership and empathy?
Whether you are a teacher interested in using STEM to innovate and lead with compassion in a global society or you are already using STEM to solve real-world problems, this book is designed to inspire you to make a real impact in the world. Innovative teachers and students can work together to solve racism, world hunger, poverty, and environmental issues.
In the end, we all need to work together in order to make our world a better place. Our world can only survive when the next generation is prepared to innovate and lead with compassion. That is our charge as public educator! We must dream of transformational change and help make change possible for students, teachers, and administrators. We must push the boundaries of what is possible and inspire our students to greatness.