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FETC 2019: 3 E’s for Inclusive and Future-Focused STEM Education

Dr. Mae Jemison, a renowned astronaut, engineer, entrepreneur, physician and educator, delivered the closing keynote at the 2019 Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC). Drawing on her unique experiences as the first woman of color to travel to space, her global initiative to create sustainable interstellar exploration, and her passion for science and continuing education, Jemison challenged school leaders to prepare students to be agile adapters to succeed in a workforce that is heavily driven by, and changing with, technological advances.

Reflecting on her past educational experiences, which includes attending Chicago public schools, the completion of degrees from both Cornell University and Stanford University, and her work with Cambodian schools, Jemison drew parallels between her experiences working in two fields that operate within largely unpredictable futures: space and education. Jemison leads 100 Year Starship®, an independent, non-profit global initiative to ensure the capabilities for human travel to another star within the next 100 years. During her presentation, she talked about how her team works to totally reimagine space travel, which will look vastly different than it does today. Similar to preparing for interstellar travel, which will need to equip travelers will the ability to address the unknown, Jemison described the challenge for educators to prepare students for a future they cannot reliably predict.

Jemison, who is at the forefront of integrating the physical and social sciences with art and culture to solve problems and foster innovation, continued by urging more transdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning to support students’ curiosity and creativity, both of which are characteristics that will transcend time and meet the needs of all industries. She outlined the 3 E’s to promote equitable and inclusive STEM education:

  • Exposure – Inform students about the variety of fields and corresponding studies and careers offered through STEM education. One avenue for exposure is developing relationships with role models to share their experiences.
  • Experience – Experimentation through hands-on labs helps to cultivate a mindset of curiosity, which is the foundation for all new discoveries.
  • Expectation – Jemison argues that students live “up or down to set expectations,” so defining goals and setting parameters will help ensure success. She cautions teachers from solely leveraging traditional models in efforts to set responsible expectations that are more inclusive of women in STEM.

A strong global voice for science literacy, Jemison reminded the audience to take a hands-on approach to teaching arts and the sciences. In addition, she outlined the importance of also including the “hearts- and minds-on” approach to build students’ passion and determination in order to spark innovation and experimentation that will lead to the discovery of new things.

Jemison is opening new opportunities for students and breaking down barriers. She inspired FETC attendees and continues to serve as an important leader in global STEM.

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