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Diversity in STEM

Inventive Education Solutions to Prepare for the Unknown

Among the many things the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us is the importance of being prepared for uncertainty. With many medical professionals predicting that the virus will become endemic, similar to the yearly flu season, administrators are starting to take steps to protect their districts in the future, while at the same time providing immediate support for students and teachers.

For over 30 years, the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) has supported school districts across the country with innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programming that inspires students to innovate and explore the world around them.

In a recently published white paper titled “Inventive Solutions for Uncertain Learning Environments,” we explore steps district administrators can take today to implement engaging academic solutions that will help both students and teachers thrive during times of uncertainty.

Below is an excerpt from our recent white paper explaining the importance of integrating social-emotional learning (SEL) as a key part of any learning strategy:


Weave SEL Into Your Learning Strategies

On Nov. 9, 2021, the National Summer Learning Association hosted an event highlighting our current educational climate and providing a sense of direction for districts nationwide looking for solutions.

Moderated by Margaret Brennan from CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” one of the event’s key speakers was Miguel Cardona, U.S. secretary of education. Cardona, who previously served as the commissioner of education in Connecticut, is a strong believer in the power of collaborating and connecting school districts with educational partners and stakeholders to maximize student outcomes.

In his conversation with Brennan, Cardona spoke frankly about the pandemic’s impact on students beyond academics.

“Think about the social emotional well-being of our learners,” Cardona said. “Kids missed out on being with kids and that’s why it’s critically important to have programs like the ones that were fostered by the folks in this room over the summer where kids were able to engage with one another on an interpersonal level for that social and emotional well-being.”

Alaina Rutledge, NIHF’s vice president of education research and development, shares Cardona’s belief in the importance of SEL and prioritizes its integration within all NIHF education programs. All great inventors must first empathize with the needs of others before beginning the prototyping process, and this is embedded within all our STEM curricula.

Empathy helps us identify with the feelings, thoughts and attitudes of children and teachers, and even within ourselves,” Rutledge said in an article published on NIHF’s website. “Empathy also allows us to imagine what it is like to be in another person’s shoes, feeling the emotions that someone else might have in different situations. Inventors often tap into this sense of empathy as they imagine what others might wish for, desire and need.”

No longer can SEL be considered a “nice to have” feature of today’s academic curricula. While much has been written and researched about the pandemic-related learning loss children have continued to suffer due to school closures and unequal access to remote learning solutions, as Cardona mentioned throughout his conversation, the emotional well-being of students cannot be ignored.

Sharon Hoover, co-director of the National Center for School Mental Health, agrees and in an article published by the Pew Charitable Trusts, advocates for schools to invest in their students’ mental health and emotional well-being.

“Nearly every child is suffering to some degree from the psychological effects of the pandemic,” Hoover said. “That’s why schools need to invest now in the mental health and well-being of our kids in a broad and comprehensive way—not just for children with learning disabilities and diagnosed mental health conditions, but for all students.”


Read the Full White Paper Today

To read the white paper, “Inventive Solutions for Uncertain Learning Environments,” in its entirety, we invite you to visit our website.

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