All children possess an innate sense of wonder. Their world is fresh and bright. They spend their days experimenting, marveling, and dreaming. As they grow older, however, many students report feeling disengaged at school[i], and their fascination with the world fades.
But a child’s entire life—both in and out of school—could be a journey into wonder. Students learn by tackling rigorous tasks, so what if students grappled with stimulating content and mind-expanding challenges? Students who view challenges as opportunities to learn are more motivated, more persistent, more confident, and more successful than students who believe challenges test their intelligence[ii]. How can we inspire students to explore the world and tackle new challenges with delight?
Today’s students are tomorrow’s citizens, leaders, and visionaries. As we continue into the 21st century, we need creative problem-solvers—particularly in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)—who can tackle the world’s challenges, including the need for sustainable energy sources, improved access to clean water, and cures for endemic diseases. Even daily life requires creative problem-solving and math skills, as we decide how to invest our money, manage our time, and maintain strong relationships with colleagues and family.
Unfortunately, our current educational system is not yet preparing the next generation of thinkers to shape our future:
- American students score below many other developed countries in critical thinking and problem-solving skills[iii].
- Divergent thinking—an element of creativity—seems to be educated out of us. Approximately 98% of kindergarteners score at the genius level, but only 32% score at this level at age 10, 10% at age 15, and finally 2% as adults[iv].
- Students become less engaged in school as they grow older, dropping from 80% of students who are engaged in elementary school, to 60% in middle school, to 40% in high school. By the time they are adults, only 30% are engaged in their jobs[v].
- Many schools reserve inquiry-based learning, independent projects, and enrichment for gifted students, even though using such pedagogy with all students has shown results[vi].
Here at Overdeck Family Foundation, we want to ensure that all students are stimulated and challenged both in and out of school, particularly in STEM. We are still learning what it will take to make this vision come to life, and we are determined to find out.
- Our strategy seeks to understand the impact of early exposure to high-quality informal STEM learning on individual students’ motivation and the transference and persistence of this motivation.
- We are working to build partnerships that allow formal education to be supplemented with irresistible learning opportunities that allow students to explore their own interests, particularly in STEM.
- We want to understand how we can best identify potential future innovators.
- Once identified, we want to build support structures to nurture and develop the talents of these potential future innovators.
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