Our world has become increasingly complex, volatile and uncertain. Education plays a crucial role in preparing young people for a future of complex challenges such as globalization, digitalization and climate change. Siemens Stiftung offers high-quality science and technology education in order to provide young learners with the relevant knowledge to understand scientific and technical interrelations. Additionally, skills such as creative problem solving, the ability to innovate, and critical thinking – known as “21st century skills” – are increasingly important for openly embracing change and conscientiously shaping the future. This is why Siemens Stiftung has recently introduced “STEM and creativity” into its international education program by integrating design thinking as a new teaching method in STEM lessons. Thus, with the “Design Thinking in STEM” project, Siemens Stiftung combines STEM education with creative processes to encourage innovative thinking among young people. The project is aimed at developing approaches for teaching these abilities in science and technology lessons. The design thinking method encourages students to address challenges with a sense of empathy, viewing a problem through the eyes of someone actually confronting it. Through interdisciplinary teamwork, ideas and approaches are turned into physical prototypes early in the process to be tested and evaluated.
The main focus of the project is on the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, established by the United Nations. They provide the thematic structure for the interdisciplinary STEM lessons and the use of the design thinking methodology. Typically, the iterative design thinking process starts with the formulation of a specific challenge. A multidisciplinary team will then develop a concrete solution for the problem, keeping the user at the heart of the process. In this project, we suggest teachers and students to choose their challenge from the SDGs, these including the economic, social, and environmental challenges of the 21st century, which are growing in their local impact alongside their global relevance. Complex STEM topics can be explained through specific problems, such as clean drinking water or sustainable power generation, while design thinking makes these problems more approachable.
Design thinking is a very suitable method in addressing the subjects of the SDGs since due to their complexity most of the goals require a multidisciplinary approach which is a core element of the design thinking mind set. Furthermore, the SDGs are of global interest and require local action. The design thinking approach usually defines a concrete problem from the local context and develops the optimal solution for the challenge. Its solution-based approach supports young learners in nurturing their creativity and preparing an innovative mind set which is required to openly embrace current and future challenges and responsibly contribute to our society.
Intended impact: We believe that high-quality STEM education is a global prerequisite for individual development and participation in a technology-driven world, which is why we focus our education program on science and technology. Additionally, skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to innovate are increasingly important for openly embracing change and responsibly shaping the future.
Input quality: Our cooperation partner The Index Project has practised the use of the methodology in education in multiple projects in more than 700 schools and has evaluated its impact in the target groups. Well established network of participants: the participants of our workshops is based on our network of STEM teachers and multipliers that have been trained in our Experimento program since years (up today 2.400 teachers/ 1.200.000 children worldwide) and are experienced in innovative education methods.
Output quality: Monitoring and evaluating the impact of our work is very important to us. In South Africa, where the project has been started in early 2019, the Schools Development Unit is monitoring the project, evaluating the use of the new methods in STEM lessons, and assessing student development. For our project in Latin America, we will build on the instruments and experiences from the evaluation process in South Africa and are planning monitoring in cooperation with local partners such as Pontificia Universidad de Chile in Villarrica and Valparaiso.
Outcome: For any successful shift in education, teachers play a key role, which is why our project “Design Thinking in STEM” addresses the following two target groups of the outcome level: as “agents of change”, it is teachers that create conditions for encouraging creativity and prepare a solution-oriented, innovative mindset among young learners. This is why, first of all, our project supports educators in their own creativity to design contemporary, interdisciplinary and creative lessons while addressing the SDGs. Second, young learners are being empowered to develop meaningful, innovative solutions and sustainable in the classroom and enabled to solve newly emerging problems. The design thinking method is a fitting approach for developing these skills, and by incorporating it into schools, we emphasize our talents and abilities.
Content sustainability: Together with The Index Project, we support educators and participants in preparing the workshops and support them in their implementation of the methodology in their teaching. Our project is linked to the conditions requested by local curricula; there is an option to combine it with additional activities such as regional/national Science Expo etc. Our project is planned for long term application (more than 3 years) and secured in an existing network of Siemens Stiftung and our cooperation partners.
Outcome/Numbers: With one teachers’ training (30 participants) we will be able to reach 10.000 students over the course of 5 years (based on our 9 years experience of teacher trainings with our Experimento program).
We are actively involved in forums and associations (i.E. STEAM Forums) in the respective regions advocating for a contemporary and high quality STEM education for sustainable development and sharing knowledge and experiences