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Tackling Global Challenges Can Teach Students 21st-Century Skills

Published November 27, 2017

Tackling Global Challenges Can Teach Students 21st-Century Skills

In our global economy, 21st-century skills like design thinking and iterating ideas are crucial today’s job market. The Academy has created an Innovative Curriculum that not only teaches STEM skills, it also teaches 21st-century skills.

At the Global STEM Alliance Summit in July, some of our students participated in an Innovation Workshop, which employed the workshop version of the curriculum. The course teaches students how to solve challenges that communities around the world are facing, while learning STEM skills.

Educator Tiffany Kapler led the workshop and liked how open-ended the challenges in the curriculum were for the students.

“While there were certainly constraints, there was no limit to the creativity that was allowed and encouraged,” noted Kapler. “I think the participants were especially engaged by the real-life challenges, where they could feel like their work might actually contribute to an overall solution.”

The students were split into groups, each of which focused on one of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Groups had five hours to design their solutions.

Seventeen-year-old Tsion Tesfu, a 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures participant from Hawassa, Ethiopia, said her favorite part of the workshop was the time they spent brainstorming. This time made them really think about possible solutions for their designated problem and she said it led to some “amazing new solutions.”

Andrea Bossi, 17, another 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures participant from Chicago, Illinois, noted that because of the time constraints, the teams had to figure out how to communicate effectively.

“Though the focus of the workshop was STEM, I feel like I learned a lot about communication,” Andrea noted.

Students were also asked to present their ideas for all the participants, and were particularly asked to avoid using technical jargon. This taught Andrea the importance of formulating and understanding concrete ideas before sharing them.

Following the workshop, she felt she could take what she learned about teamwork into the classroom, as well as extracurricular activities and independent research projects: “This is an important lesson that I will carry with me beyond college because group work will be essential in my career too.”

Following the workshop, Tsion hoped that the STEM center in her city would initiate workshops like this. She believes most girls in her country lack the confidence to communicate science effectively and thinks this curriculum could be very helpful.

Teachers across countries and disciplines can implement this curriculum in their own classrooms. Learn more here.