“STEM offers a cooperative, innovative, and exciting work environment that is unparalleled,” says Aimee Kennedy, vice president for education and STEM learning at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio. Employment in occupations related to STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is projected to grow to more than 9 million by 2022 according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wages in STEM fields are currently higher than the median. STEM occupations require skills that build on each other. For example, mathematics are required for physics. Physics is required for engineering, which in turn can advance technology. The ability to see problems from a different view and clearly explain solutions are critical to success in STEM occupations. Many professionals lack these skills and have difficulty bridging ideas outside of their expertise if they were trained in a traditional educational system.
Biomimicry provides a methodology to bring STEM skills together. Biomimicry training also emphasizes communication skills and familiarity with technical jargon across disciplines. As K-12 education in the United States focuses more on testing standards than critical thinking skills, adult workers are lacking skills to succeed in STEM fields. It is imperative to teach children in a manner that leads to professional development. Some schools have the capacity to teach project-based learning, but the time pressure on educators to teach for standardized tests means that project-based learning gets dropped.
The University of Akron Bath Field Station and TIES, a K-12 consultation company (http://www.tiesteach.org/about/), is furthering the mission of teaching STEM skills to local children. Buchtel Middle School and Old Trail Elementary has regularly sent students to the University of Akron’s award-winning Bath Field Station program to learn STEM in nature. Lara Roketenetz, from the University of Akron, leads the program at Bath and hundreds of students experience learning in nature. Bath’s curriculum takes children outside, exposes them to scientific methods and procedures, and links the curriculum to career opportunities. For some learners, Bath Field Station is their first time looking to nature as inspiration instead of a playground. Biomimicry design principles are taught to children as young as 6 years old and their experience in nature will stay with them through adult-hood.