You probably know Hank Green of The Vlog Brothers and a ton of other cool nerdy sites (NerdFighteria being one). We spoke last week about what parents need to know about STEM, STEM careers, and fostering a love of inquiry.
Green is currently partnering with Emerson whose whole goal is to try to figure out how to create the next generation of who they can hire. They’re looking for engineers and scientists and computer scientists because there’s a shortage of hirable people. Emerson wants more people in the industry looking for jobs. (Maybe our kids one day?) Their mission is to help create effective people who understand the world and solve problems.
Content Knowledge or Problem Solving Skills?
I only had a few minutes to chat with Green but I particularly wanted Green’s perspective on content vs. thinking. My big question was this: Do kids need to know the content of science, technology, engineering, and math? OR do they simply need to know how to learn content and be good thinkers? In other words, which is more important?
Hank’s answer surprised me.
He said content.
“There’s a certain amount of expertise that’s needed. What I’m seeing a lot of need for right now and the people who are snatched up the fastest are people who have a specific deep knowledge in something . . . and that could be mechanical engineering, and chemistry, and they also have something else. An additive. It could be communications, business, it could be two different science things.
Having that diversity suddenly makes you have a specific set of knowledge. . . that there’s only like 30 of you in the country. That’s what I’m seeing a lot of interest in.
Even having a couple of Computer Science classes under your belt doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a coder but it means you’ll be better at managing coders.”
Clearly, this does not mean that you can’t be a darn good thinker and problem solver. But, I’ll be honest. It took me by surprise because where in the K – 12 educational system are kids getting computer science or engineering classes? Sure, some places are on the cutting edge and teaching it.
However, I think a lot of the onus is on us as parents to 1) work with this stuff at home and 2) advocate in our schools for more STEM content classes.
But, It IS Also About Figuring Stuff Out Says Green
I asked Green about this — where can kids get engineering classes? computer science classes? (Which brought us back to my question about mindset vs. content and what STEM really is.)
“I don’t expect chemical engineering class in high school but all the way from kindergarten up what this really, What engineering and science really is saying — “I don’t know a thing,” and then your immediate response to that is: “How do I know it?”
That’s engineering and science — asking and asking until you get there.
That might be asking a person who knows, it might be reading a Wikipedia articles, it might be interfacing with your teacher and parent, it might be doing actual experiments. To me, that’s from birth. That you should be fostering that love of figuring stuff out. To me that’s what engineering is.”
What Can Parents Do At Home?
“It depends on how much tie you have to invest – and not every parent has the same amount of time which is a shame,” replied Green.
“The main thing is to not be afraid of not knowing an answer. What I’m excited about is my son asking a question I don’t know the answer to. Knowing something is great but it is not nearly as valuable as finding it out, the process of figuring stuff out. Fostering that enthusiasm for not just knowing stuff, but figuring stuff out, that’s the part that I love. Hopefully that’s something we can find at home as part of our play, as part of growing as a family, and spending time together.”
What do you think? How are you fostering this love of “figuring stuff out”?
Check out the STEM resources on Emerson’s site.
Find more ways to follow Hank Green on his Hank and John site.