Innovating STEAM Education: Traditional, Informal, Distance

By Jasmine L. Sadler, MBA, BSE Aerospace Engineering

The STEAM Collaborative, CEO+Visionary

First and foremost, to #theSTEMcollabs, certified teachers, fellow out-of-school-time educators, every hard-working parent, and Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math (STEAM) Leaders and the brilliant young lives we fight for daily, I salute you!  The second semester of 2020 has been an interesting roller coaster for us all.  It has involved masks, elbow handshakes, disinfecting touch screens, distance learning, distant mentorship, educational reform, civil reform, lives saved, lives lost, and a stirring of activists young and old. Through it all, we are prevailing. 

Over the past few months, as the CEO+Visionary of The STEAM Collaborative, my role has evolved from teacher to presenter, speaker and now thought leader in STEM Education -- all in my passionate effort to advocate for the students I am honored to serve. Like them, I too have been a recipient of  Distance Learning through webinars, such as those presented by: The Black American Political Association of California, San Diego for Every Child Equitable Distance Learning Task Force, San Diego Regional Chamber, Innovation Collaborative, California Department of Education, Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum Youth Summit, and Connect All at the Jacobs Center. Also, there has also been a strategic wave of less formal virtual gatherings by the Millennial Black Agenda, Thought City, San Diego Black Professionals, Black San Diego, SD Melanin, Come Through SD, National Conflict Resolution Center, and San Diego Union Tribune.

Now more than ever, it is easier for not only children, but all of us to apply STEAM Education in real life applications.  In this present time, STEAM solutions are needed every day in the most critical ways: Virus cures (S), Virtual meetings (T), Shipping (E), Mental Health (A), Flatten the curve (M).  Similarly, we must continue to spread awareness of San Diego’s five priority sectors compiled by the San Diego Workforce Partnership: Advanced Manufacturing, Clean Energy, Health Care, Information & Communication Technologies, and Life Sciences. As these sectors continue to see significant employment growth rates and strong wages, we must recognize the criticalness of accessibility and inclusiveness in STEAM and its related future careers.  

In The Mis-Education of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson said, “Real education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it and make it better.”  During this time of distance learning, my basis for activism has been fighting for education, which is the basis for innovation and solutions to the world’s problems.  I have donated content to the virtual education efforts by Young, Black & N’ Business, Fleet Science Center FLEETtv, San Diego Public Library Stay-In Summer Reading Club, Diamond Educational Excellence Partnership, and @thewomenofstem.  Although the school year has concluded, these are great resources to continue learning both academically and in society.

According to former First Lady Michelle Obama, “Education is the single most important civil rights issue that we face today.”  Combining that with racial unrest and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it is unsurprising yet unacceptable, that there is still a lack of diversity in the room when brainstorming and down-selecting solutions to the world’s problems. While working as a Black Woman Engineer, I was tasked to recruit more diverse candidates (despite not being  a trained recruiter).  The requirements were based exclusively on a college GPA in Mechanical Engineering or Electrical Engineering.  It was shocking to realize that under these circumstances I would not have been eligible for recruitment based on the condition of my degree - my Aerospace Engineering “profile” would have outed me.  Had the company never hired me, the exclusion of ideal candidates would not have been detected.  Now, translate this experience to other areas of diversity including race, gender, disability, socio-economic history, etc.  While traditional education is not the only way, the lack of it blocks access to a diverse voice. 

Lately, I have been navigating discussions related to the importance of Education as we currently know it, and ways to reform the future of Distance Learning.  As I watch many of my millennial adult friends tackle serious decisions about finishing their bachelor's degree or even continue through graduate programs, it is obvious this moment in education, and its impact on employment, has made history. It is a generational issue as the new wave of 2020 graduates grapple with being unable to find employment in their fields.  There are so many opportunities to innovate education and make it work for each individual as well as the collective.  Please connect with the organizations above as I keep doing my part to make introductions and share my knowledge.  We can all continue to embrace distance learning, champion diversity, and innovate as I do with The STEAM Collaborative!