Outdoor environmental education cultivates curiosity and discovery in children, the fundamental building blocks of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) literacy, and it encourages students to make science a part of everyday life.
The need to prepare students for STEM jobs is a regular refrain at education and business forums around the region and across the country. According to the National Math and Science Initiative, “STEM job creation over the next 10 years will outpace non-STEM jobs significantly, growing 17 percent, as compared to 9.8 percent for non-STEM positions.”
STEM educational programs build inquiry skills, foster creativity and prepare students for the kind of flexible and strategic thinking that will be needed for the highly technical 21st century jobs that are emerging. Many of these future jobs will involve new and, perhaps as yet unimagined, advanced technologies.
The foundation for the type of creative and innovative thinking that these jobs will require can be found — literally — right outside.
Nature study, environmental education, outdoor experiential learning. It comes by many names, but when curriculum is well-planned, study that takes children out of the classroom and into the field — and woods and streams — provides the core experiences and skills that they will need to succeed in an ever-changing world.
Consider that engineering, from software development to biomedical applications, requires all of the following underlying skills: an ability to recognize and interpret patterns; the synthetic thinking that allows one to identify relationships and systemic…
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