Last week, I read a great article discussing why science education is important for democracy. We’ve explored this topic before on the Earth Force blog, talking about why civic skills matter in STEM education.
The author of the piece, Arthur Camins, argues that, “Great science and engineering education engages students so that they develop the knowledge and intellectual dispositions to make sense of the natural and designed worlds. But that’s not all. It prepares young people to understand how beliefs and values intersect with evidence in decision-making.”
We could not agree more at Earth Force! Through STEM education, students are developing critical skills that will prepare them to be active and informed citizens in their community. They’re learning to value unbiased research, to determine the root cause of an issue, and to use critical thinking when confronted with challenges. Sounds a lot like how we want people to approach the political process, right?
Camins also talks about the natural opportunity education presents to dive into policy and how it affects a young person’s life. It is so important students understand the connection between government and their lives. At Earth Force, we ask students to explore policies around environmental issues that they have uncovered in their community. This not only provides an opportunity for students to better understand our political systems and how certain decisions can create unintended outcomes; it also allows students to develop an understanding of how they can effect change.
With little understanding of how policies come to be, it’s almost certain a student will not understand that policies can be changed through their political involvement – even if they can’t vote yet!
Years ago, we worked with the group of fifth grade students from Belle Hall Elementary School in Charleston, SC, who spent years advocating for a pedestrian path on a new bridge, ultimately connecting to diverse communities.
Students were concerned that the proposed Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge had no bike and pedestrian path, making it difficult for residents on each side to have access to recreation and fresh food. The students traveled to Washington D.C. to talk to South Carolina legislators about their vision. As a result of their efforts, the plans for the new bridge were altered to include a spacious pedestrian and bike lane. Even more notable, their work helped to change the attitudes and expectations of the local community.
As we go into Election Day tomorrow, remember that creating an engaged populace starts TODAY. Science education is a critical pathway to getting young people engaged in the democratic process. And of course, most importantly, remember that you can play a role in shaping your community by voting tomorrow.
Author: Kristen Mueller
Kristen Mueller leads national communications, creating engagement and excitement around Earth Force, and its partners’, hands on, minds on programming. Specializing in traditional media and social media relations, she brings youth voice and leadership to the forefront of the environmental education field.