While STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education often promotes the importance of learning technical knowledge relating to these disciplines, what is comparatively less common are lessons pertaining to social-emotional learning (SEL).
Defined as the process through which students acquire the ability to manage emotions, feel and show empathy for others, maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions, at first, SEL might seem to make more sense in a language arts or history classroom. However, with the right curriculum, STEM subjects also provide children with opportunities to develop foundational SEL traits including empathy, perseverance and collaboration.
Inventing with Empathy
At the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), we have the privilege of honoring some of our country’s most influential innovators, and our expert education team uses the lessons and stories of NIHF Inductees to develop invention education programs that promote both STEM and SEL through hands-on, collaborative experiences. In working directly with inventors, time and time again, we’ve discovered that the inspiration for some of the world’s most impactful inventions came from embracing empathy and the desire to improve the lives of others.
From 2021 Inductees Lisa Lindahl, Hinda Miller and Polly Smith, who invented the sports bra so that women could participate comfortably in athletic activities, to 2004 Inductees Frederick Banting, Charles Best and James Collip, whose discovery of isolated, purified insulin has improved the lives of millions suffering from diabetes, inventors have shown us that the first step in creating something impactful is often to think about how your creation can help someone else.
Using STEM Education to Teach Perseverance and Collaboration
By prioritizing SEL, we can help children develop the type of mindset they need to thrive. In an article published by the National Afterschool Association, Michael Funk, director of the after school division for the California Department of Education, argues that STEM education helps students develop the right mindset. “STEM learning helps develop the skills and mindset needed to navigate life,” Funk said. “Perseverance is key. We all fail at times. It takes character to learn from our mistakes and to try again.”
The belief that progress is always possible remains a guiding principle shared by many innovators. Because of this, it’s common for teams of inventors to improve their creations over time. As children are introduced to inventors as inspiring role models, they will see how the drive to overcome challenges and work together to continuously improve upon inventions demonstrates the power of persistence and teamwork.
We know complex challenges often require the contributions of many different people, each of whom brings their own skill set and experiences. Invention education opportunities that support SEL through engagement in STEM have the power to transform children into confident, collaborative creators who will be prepared to take on these challenges and make our world a better place.
Learn more about STEM and SEL
To learn more about the importance of combining STEM education and SEL, we invite you to visit our blog.