Employers have expressed their need for a workforce that has strong academic and employability or "soft" skills. The term "soft" is often used to describe verbal and written communication, creativity, collaboration, leadership and problem solving. The reality of the 21st century workplace is that these skills are as essential as industry-specific and academic proficiency. Teachers across Stark County have been transforming their classrooms to include development of both academic and soft skills, and Mr. Kuhlin's classroom in Tuslaw Local School District is a successful example.
Mr. Kuhlin introduces the basic levels of engineering to his middle school science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students and moves into more complex engineering concepts in his high school STEM classes. As the 'facilitator' in his classroom, Mr. Kuhlin provides students with a wide variety of experiences.
Initially, middle school students are given instructions and needed materials required to build a project (like the electric crane shown in the pictures to the right). The process provides hands-on experiences so students can develop an understanding of how something works as well as related scientific concepts. Later, as students master basic engineering principles, Mr. Kuhlin increasingly challenges them by presenting problems that require the application of math and science to design and build a solution. Working in groups further helps to develop collaboration skills.
At the high school level, students are engaged in a wide range of engineering concepts including CAD, forensics, electricity and design.
When asked if they prefer traditional classroom experiences or the experiential learning in a STEM classroom, 100% of the students responded "STEM!"