Canada 2067 asked Bonnie Schmidt, CEO of Let’s Talk Science, and presenting partner of Canada 2067, to share her thoughts on who’s involved in setting the path forward for STEM education in Canada. See the interview below.
1. Who needs to take the lead when it comes to advancing STEM learning in Canada?
Parents and educators are key. Community partners, including industry, can provide support with initiatives such as classroom programs, after school events and work-integrated learning. Of course, provincial and territorial governments have overall responsibility for schooling so they need to play a strong leadership role. And youth have to be at the centre of every consideration when it comes to determining the skills, characteristics, and knowledge they need for the future. But in the end, responsibility for learning rests with the individual.
2. In your opinion, what do you think your sector can contribute to the advancement of STEM learning in Canada?
The community sector is critical to advancing STEM learning by bringing relevance – both in and out of school. We connect youth and educators with meaningful role models and we strengthen career awareness. We help students build critical skills and knowledge by engaging them in programs that inspire and can expose them to equipment and technology, which can be difficult or impossible for teachers to access. We provide work-integrated learning opportunities and we engage students in real research projects that underscore the importance of asking great questions.
3. Please share your “big idea” for how Canada needs to approach STEM learning as we look towards in the future?
One idea for enhancing STEM learning is to offer a more integrated approach that places a critical issue (e.g. climate change, sustainably energy, access to water) at the centre. In this way, we can bring together a variety of disciplines to address the challenge instead of teaching distinct biology, chemistry and physics classes. This issues-based approach makes the learning relevant for learners and provides a meaningful framework to engage community partners.
4. What has been our country’s biggest leap forward in advancing STEM learning, and why?
A critical leap forward has been the growing recognition that elementary and secondary education is a key economic investment for Canada’s future and not a “social expense”. We must start at the very youngest ages to develop thoughtful, engaged citizens, workers and innovators.
5. With the right ideas and the right policies in place, what do you think your sector will look like in the year 2067?
I hope there will be even closer ties between schools and community partners. With shared goals and better communication we can leverage strengths and resources and provide unique and meaningful learning opportunities for every student.