There is lots of talk about the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pipeline and all of its leaks. My personal mission is to fill the STEM pipeline with so many children that it bursts. To do this, STEM must be taught in an inspiring way. To keep children engaged, we need to bring passion for learning back into the classroom.
Passion is hot. It is a force that sells movies and margarine and everything in between. It is a force the can move mountains, inspire art and make the weak strong. We need to bring passion back into learning, in teaching and all around.
Passion motivates. It makes a way out of no way. It allows students to overcome hardships to achieve a goal that is meaningful to them.
When writing my recent book for TED, Save Our Science, I learned about the alphabet soup of instructional strategies out there, with the common theme of enticing and engaging learning. Let’s name a few of these pedagogies: there is
- design-based and
- problem-based learning,
for example. Each of these methods has a central theme buried under all that jargon. If we were to compare the learning process to fishing, we want to draw students in (with the worm) and keep them engaged (with the hook). These pedagogies provide the motivation and the momentum using different approaches.
You can hook a student’s attention if
- they get their hands dirty (inquiry-based learning);
- have learning interactions with other students (project- and problem-based learning); or
- need to perform a specific task (problem- and design-based learning).
All these methods are ways — with their direct discovery, problem-solving, hands-on learning and collaborative methods — used to keep the embers of passion for learning alive. A love of learning is a key skill for the 21st century. (See Figure 1)
The Power of Passion There are two ways to get a child passionate about something:
- Find out what each child is innately passionate about.
- Be an instructor that exudes passion for the topic, and infect your students with that excitement.
Only a few of us have benefited from the first option, but all of us can benefit from the second one. That is the power of passion.
Be a passion-based teacher. Take on a new learning posture with your students by presenting a story behind the topic you are teaching, or by showing its beauty, or by delighting in the topic. Get in touch with your inner geek. When you do that, you give students permission to do the same. Remember that the word pedagogy comes from the Greek root, which means “to lead the child.”
Everyone is a geek for something; everyone has passion for something. Make that something learning. Infect your students with passion, and they’ll never be able to contain it again. Release your passion!
April 2, 2013