At Einstein in a Box, we take the statement "inquiring minds want to know" to a whole new level. We deliver a project-based learning activity in a uniquely designed package to entice children to play while learning through science, technology, math, and engineering (STEM). A product of Academics in a Box, Einstein in a Box was founded to bring out the "STEMist" in all school-age children through hands-on, fun, project-based learning.
What is a STEMist? STEMist /stĕmʹĭst/ n. Expert in applying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Creator, explorer, inventor... STEMist!
STEM education is imperative to our future and a prosperous America. Many educational organizations and STEM-driven companies agree that America is behind other major countries in teaching and learning STEM. In fact, a focus on STEM was underscored by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in a 2007
report by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Institute for Advance Study Commission on Mathematics and Science Education. The report stated, "The nation's capacity to innovate for economic growth and the ability of American workers to thrive in the global economy depend on a broad foundation of math and science learning, as do our hopes to preserving the vibrant democracy."
Even the White House has taken a role in the forward movement of STEM education. In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama emphasized STEM-based education, challenging Americans to get excited about the sciences and math, to "do what's necessary to give every child a chance to succeed." By 2020, the US Dept. of Labor and Statistics predicts that STEM-focused careers will increase from 16% to 62%. President Obama said, "We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair."
This is where Einstein in a Box comes into play, fostering the innovation of our children, beginning in their early informative years, by enticing their innate curiosity and determination through the use of the engineering design process. NASA's example of the Engineering Design Process "involves a series of steps that lead to the development of a new product or system." Educators around the world use varying steps in a design process, but all start with the identification of a problem or asking of a question to a solution or conclusion.
Each month, STEMists receive a subscription box that focuses on a certain theme. The box provides all the supplies necessary to complete the activities, experiments, and design challenges outlined in a custom, subject-specific lab notebook. For example, the "Lunar Launch" box includes balloons, paperclips, tape measure, pencils, lab notebook, a clothespin, scissors, and other necessary items needed to accomplish all of the investigations and engineering design challenge.
The learning doesn't stop with what's in the box. All STEMists get access to "Beyond... in a Box," a unique web portal containing videos and interactive activities to supplement what they are learning through the box projects. Additionally, the monthly box contains bonus supplies exclusively for the activities available through "Beyond... in a Box."
While the investigation activities have step-by-step directions, STEMists won't have detailed directions to complete the Engineering Design Challenge. Instead, they must rely on their critical thinking skills, and what they've learned through the investigation process from the Lab Notebook and online activities. The Engineering Design Challenge is the culmination of the STEMist's learning experience -- the ultimate project where he/she must apply the knowledge gained from that month's activities.
Einstein in a Box inspires critical thinking with the actual doing and experiencing. Though strong STEM education is the future for our children to be competitive in the 21st century, science and art go hand-in-hand. The Einstein in a Box monthly activity encourages children to draw, journal, and think about their engineering design challenges. As engineers incorporate the arts, history, social sciences, and creative and critical thinking with the science, STEMists do the same. I am a firm believer that science and art were never meant to be separated; they must intermingle.
It's our hope that Einstein in a Box will prompt science to once again enter our pop-culture society. We want to bring science back to the NASA Apollo era where children were excited about the prospect of being a scientist, securing America's future through fun STEM education.
Elaine Hansen, co-founder of Academics in a Box Inc., is a professional educator dedicated to excellence in education through a variety of teaching methods, including an emphasis on STEM.