The future is STEM

Schools meet demand for modern skills


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Crescent School students engage with robotics in science courses

New findings suggest that 65 per cent of the current population of elementary school students will be employed in careers that don’t yet exist! That means schools must embrace the challenge of providing students with the skills that will help them excel in an exciting, unknown future.

The federal government intends to grow “the number of Canadians equipped with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) coding and digital skills,” with plans to fund $50 million for digital skills training for students and $10.8 million to support STEM learning activities.

Science and tech programming can help students develop the foundational skills that tomorrow’s young leaders will require, and schools are revamping their programs to include these initiatives in ways that excite and engage students.

Some of the more cutting-edge  programming is already in Toronto’s private schools, with innovative programs and activities, and the integration of new technologies. This new approach, coupled with a classic education, students can become big thinkers and creative problem solvers.

Here are just a few of the schools advancing these programs.

TanenbaumCHAT has launched an Engineering Academy, a program that provides an understanding of engineering fundamentals, hands-on learning, coding and complex problem solving. Enrolment doubled after its first year, and principal Renee Cohen says, “Students are excited to come to school each and every day to create, innovate and build.”

UTS (University of Toronto Schools) has invested in state-of-the-art 3D printers and interactive touch screen monitors to facilitate tech-forward learning. STEM initiatives include a 3D design club, developing apps, building robots and tackling complex topics with some game-based learning.

The York School opened the Schad Art and Design Lab, a space that integrates STEM disciplines. Students test their skills in engineering challenges like Bridge Busters and the Pinewood Derby, requiring them to understand the principles of design.

“Students are excited to create,
innovate and build.”

Crescent School boys engage with robotics in science courses and participate in competitive teams. It’s not just about the ’bots, though.

“The lessons learned … go beyond the mechanics and coding skills,” says Don Morrison, director of robotics. “The boys learn the value of collaboration, complex problem solving, critical thinking and communication.”

Don’t forget the girls! There is a dearth of females in university science and engineering programs, as women comprise only about 20 per cent of undergrad enrolment in those areas. More girls' schools are hoping to change that.

At Linden School, lessons in coding, engineering, robotics, electronics and science are taught in the new CERES lab. Events like the Social Justice Data Fair showcase projects centred on math and data while also exploring issues that synthesize some of the social sciences. Curriculum leader Beth Alexander says her goal is for girls to discover they are creators of technology, not just the users of it, and to develop skills so they can consider the opportunities in these under-representated fields.

Havergal College has also committed to science and math initiatives, breaking ground on a building for STEM applications, ready in 2019. Students have taken field trips to Google Canada, tested airfoil prototypes in the school’s wind tunnel and participated in coding hackathons. Clubs include Lego engineering, crafty science, mind benders and science design.

If your child isn’t considering a career in the sciences, STEM programming is still beneficial. 

It can open the minds of students, allowing them to brainstorm creative ways to approach a problem. It encourages them to experiment, learn from mistakes and work with peers to find  solutions: all skills essential to any career.

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Jo-Anne Craine is a freelance writer and Post City contributor. Follow her on Twitter @TypeACreative1.

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