Today students from grades 8-10 made our way down to science world for the Canada 2067 youth STEM conference. The topic of of this conference was to design a colony on Mars. Or so we were told.
We had a special welcome from Elder Roberta price of the Cowichan First nation, who opened our conference. We met a series of researchers, entrepreneurs and experts in varying branches of STEM who told us all about their experiences in their respective fields. This helped us to get a feel for what life is like working in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
After the presentations we were given our mission, to imagine and design the first school on Mars. This is when some of us started to smell something funny.
We split off into pods, with each group focused on different parts of our hypothetical school. One group was focused on the Curricular aspect of the school, another on the physical design of the space, a third on teaching methods, and the final one on evaluation.
We were asking lots of important and generating lots of great ideas for our school. Considering things like how our school would accommodate the severe atmosphere of Mars. But every time someone began to lean further into the science behind an idea, or try to come up with a creative way to solve a problem in a design, they would try to pull us back towards the education piece, rather then the STEM. The re occurring theme in the later half of the day seemed to be "focus less on the specifics, especially the technical stuff" and "Think of how schools are here, what changes could be made that would make school ideal for you?"
By the time our group sessions had finished, we all gathered into a room to share out our results. There was tons of creative ideas the groups had thought up, like project based assessment, subject adaptable learning spaces, and collaborations with experts. But the only thing that seemed to be absent, STEM. All the hype about the collaborative STEM experience and engaging activities had gotten us excited. But was promoted as and anticipated, a STEM conference, really seemed to be an entire day dedicated to getting a student perspective on our current education system.