Science, technology, engineering and mathematics combine with the arts (STEAM) to prepare youth to thrive in a technology-driven world
It’s been barely two years since the official launch of Canada 2067, but the ambitious 50-year program to promote learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has already gripped the imagination of educators, learners and the business community more firmly than its founders had hoped for.
Led by Let’s Talk Science, a national charitable organization, and backed by a coalition of community and private-sector partners including Amgen Canada, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, the Trottier Family Foundation and 3M Canada, Canada 2067 aims to set the country on a path to be a global leader in the skills that students of today will need to cope with the future challenges of a rapidly changing world.
The first two phases of the project, conversations with youth and adults across Canada – in person and online – to refine the Canada 2067 Learning Framework, and a national leadership conference last December, have been “an unbelievable adventure,” says Bonnie Schmidt, president of Let’s Talk Science.
“We hosted five youth summits, talking with more than 1,000 Grade 9 and 10 students directly about their ideas for the future. Speakers were live streamed to thousands of viewers. We partnered with Global Shapers, an initiative of the World Economic Forum, to hear what millennials were saying, and we had round tables with about 200 millennials in urban settings across the country,” says Dr. Schmidt.
The national leadership conference brought together deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers of education from across Canada to meet leaders from industry and community organizations with the shared goal of preparing Canadian youth to thrive in a technology-driven world for generations to come.
Insights by participants at the youth summits and related engagements provided program organizers with valuable information on how students view learning. For example, learning doesn’t look the same for every student and needs to be personalized. Collaboration between students where they learn from one another plays a key role in shaping their education.
Students said technology in the classroom is critical to improving the learning process, as is changing the education curriculum so they are engaged in STEM early on in their education. Connecting STEM learning to real-life problems in a hands-on way is important to them.
They also want more mentoring and counselling to develop the skills to manage their own improvement and move towards new directions, and a school culture that is supportive, encouraging and inspiring; a place where diversity and inclusion are practised and cultivated, and where learning spaces are safe, clean, bright and inspiring.
“Students talked about the need to be able to practise and have more experiential learning opportunities, while teachers and other participants spoke about the interdisciplinary approaches to experiential education. That was a very interesting convergence,” says Dr. Schmidt.
Information gathered during the engagement process resulted in the publication in September of the 2067 Learning Roadmap, a set of key recommendations across six learning pillars identified in the Canada 2067 process.
The recommendations are already helping maintain the program’s momentum, which is a key focus for the coming year, says Dr. Schmidt.
“There’s a real sense of urgency that things need to be different. Within two weeks of the release of the recommendations, teachers’ associations in Ontario and British Columbia reached out to us and asked what they could do to keep the momentum going,” she adds,
Dr. Schmidt says Let’s Talk Science is looking at its own programming to see where it might be able to bring it more into line with the feedback from students. She believes the September recommendations will also help companies align their education and community investment objectives with the Canada 2067 program.
“I’ve already seen a change in several of the companies that want to get involved,” she adds. “They are asking how they can do more to support their employees’ engagement with students, and how they can improve career awareness and make it relevant to what students are studying in school.
“We can do this; we can help to shape the environment and have an inclusive approach that is respectful and authentic for all learners. There are only about five million school-age kids in Canada. We cannot afford to leave anybody behind. And people are ready for change,” says Dr. Schmidt.
For more information: Canada2067.ca
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