The Importance of Cultivating Kids’ Empathy in STEM Education
Unlike other subjects, such as Language Arts, Literacy, and Social Studies, the STEM curriculum is often considered straightforward, analytical, or critical.
For this stereotype and historical reasons, the gender barrier was shaped in STEM education as well as the STEM workplace for centuries. In recent years, policies were launched by the governments and campaigns were promoted by private organizations worldwide in support of women in STEM role models.
Apart from parity and diversity in the workforce, educators and professionals from all areas have realized that empathy, as one of the 21st-century skills, has become vital in STEM education, helping solve social and economic issues. Empathy has a significant role to play on the road of eliminating Quality Education Inequality, one of the UN's Initiatives, and early childhood education is fundamental to continuous development in Africa and other emerging economies.
There is no doubt that technology is the foundation of building digital economies, which is the hope for those regions to put themselves on the ICT leadership map.
What is empathy?
Empathy refers to the ability to understand and sense the feelings and emotions of another, mainly including three components: cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, and compassionate empathy.
- Cognitive empathy: the ability to think about the feeling of another. It helps kids better develop communication skills.
- Emotional empathy: the ability to feel what another feels. It boosts kids' emotional management skills.
- Compassionate empathy: the term involves what we usually understand by empathy and compassion. It stimulates us to take actions to help others as long as we can.
Developing the three types of empathy helps today’s thinkers and doers consider including humanities in STEM areas.
Why is empathy important in STEM education?
STEM professionals are often labeled as logical, critical, straightforward, or nerd, but not emotional. Many wonder why empathy matters in STEM education.
Based on the Framework of the Next Generation Science Standards, the ultimate goal of technology aligns with the global mutual goals for every one of us. Lacking empathy, it’s insufficient for STEM workers to address the social issues with practical human-centered solutions that would profoundly influence the generation one after another. Every decision that the STEM men and women would make has a significant impact on our society. Empathy stimulates the STEM team to upgrade devices and seek better solutions to solving global problems.
Taking into account empathy in the STEM classroom helps kids develop awareness and deepen their understanding of the importance of humanity. The awareness of humanity boosts communication and collaboration abilities which are strongly associated with cognition and empathy. In addition, it needs empathy to call out gender inequality and discrimination in our current STEM workforce. And that’s why STEM Education has been gradually built into STEAM around the globe. Here, the “A” stands for Arts.
Actually, the “A” in it has a lot to do with empathy besides the “Arts”. It reflects the approaches of the creators and how they would affect human and society in reality. The way the creators present has a direct reflection from themselves-how they see the world, what they feel about another, and what they would do to improve a better living environment.
How to cultivate empathy in STEM learning at home?
Empathy education helps capture today’s young talents who would be eventually become tomorrow’s thinkers and doers contributing to the future’s technology advancement.
Global collaboration has become essential to tackle global social issues in a way more digitalized era. On the road of Education Equality, no kids should be left behind, poor or rich, from developing or developed nations. Cultivating kids’ empathy is shaping their values with a global mindset. It will drive them with stronger compassion and beliefs to take actions to address problems for not only individual countries but also the globe.
On the other hand, inadequate infrastructure and limited learning resources at school impede the development of kids’ early STEM education.
Although improvements seen in recent years, it’s still challenging to overcome this global issue overnight. STEM-related toys address the critical two points-equal learning access and quality learning resources, getting kids engaged with technology awareness and desire. Therefore, home-based learning is the key to complementing school education, providing equal quality learning opportunities for every kid.
A few things you can do every day at home:
- Be a role model with a human-centered approach to communicate with your kids and show them how to solve a problem.
- Help our kids to understand the outside world from different perspectives
- Support our kids understand and develop empathy while solving STEM-related problems.
- Explain and help our kids understand how STEM-related issues can affect our living environment.
Overall, empathy impacts more than just our children themselves, but the whole society. Along with the development of technology and equal quality STEM education, our kids will become tomorrow’s leaders in the STEM areas.
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