• About Laing's Whole-School STEM Initiative

    Preparing for Success in the 21st Century

    Our Mission at Laing is to prepare and inspire generations of learners to meet the challenges of our 21st century society by fostering technological literacy, academic achievement, innovation, collaboration and creative problem-solving. Laing’s Whole-School STEM Initiative is a core strategy for achieving this Mission.

    Our Goals are to:

    1. Improve academic performance – Our experience has shown that well-designed activities using STEM tools can increase student interest and engagement. Research has shown that when people are curious and engaged their brains are better at learning; not only about the objects of their , but also about other things – even incidental, boring information [1, 2].

    2. Provide students with 21st century career skills – Success in 21st century careers requires more than academic mastery; by 2030:

    • Around 85% of the jobs that our students will be doing haven’t been invented yet.

    • Workers will create new work infrastructures to acquire skills and knowledge they need

    • They will routinely improvise, learn from each other, and make their own way

    • Most will partner with machines to learn while on-the-gig.

    • The ability to gain new knowledge will be valued higher than the knowledge people already have [3].

    In the 21st century, we live and work in a world that is highly influenced by science, engineering, and technology. To function effectively in 21st century workplaces and societies, students need the ability to understand, evaluate, and use technology in its many forms [4].

    3. Foster potential interest in STEM professions – The economic prosperity and national security of the United States rests increasingly on its capacity for continued scientific and technological innovation [5]. Yet, while the global demand for STEM skills is increasing, students’ interest and motivation toward STEM learning has declined, especially in western countries and more prosperous Asian nations [6]. Although the majority of STEM programs focus on grades 9-12 [5], the K-8 grades are critical to increasing the number of STEM professionals because many students, particularly girls, lose interest in science and mathematics somewhere between ages 9 and 12. We believe that many students may have a latent but unrecognized interest in STEM professions that can be revealed and developed through personal involvement with applications of these disciplines.

    4. Narrow achievement gaps – Many students struggle with abstract ideas and academic content that seems irrelevant to their lives and experience. In addition to stimulating curiosity, infusing STEM content into our core curriculum can provide concrete personal contexts for abstract content. Repeatedly, we have seen struggling students achieve new focus, interest, and success when working with STEM-infused activities.

    A Different Kind of STEM – STEM programs in many schools are confined to a few classes, periodic projects, or after-school activities. At Laing, our emphasis is on using STEM tools as a key instructional strategy across the curriculum.

    What About STEAM? In recent years, it has become popular to emphasize the inclusion of art subjects in STEM programs by changing the acronym to “STEAM.” At Laing, Fine Arts have been part of our STEM initiative from the outset — along with all other subjects in our curriculum. We haven’t found a good acronym that includes every subject, so we call our initiative “Whole-School STEM.”

     A Different Kind of Literacy – Whole-School STEM is intended to build Technological Literacy as well as Academic Literacy. Technological Literacy has three major components [6]:

    • Knowledge about Technology – Technology means the human-built world, and has always been an influential force in human society. We view Technology as an ever-expanding toolkit that students can use for their own purposes.
    • Engineering Habits of Mind – Engineering is the process of using technology to satisfy human needs and wants. At Laing, we encourage students to use the Engineering Design Process (EDP) as a general go-to approach for problem-solving in a wide variety of situations; and we place Design Thinking alongside the EDP as a way to stimulate creativity and “thinking outside the box.” We also encourage other habits of mind common among engineers, including optimism, learning from failure, and collaboration [7].
    • Hands-on Experiences with STEM Tools – Tangible tactile experiences can make abstract ideas much more memorable. We have found that almost all students are excited by opportunities to bring their own creations into reality, and this is an important strategy for creating meaningful learning experiences. Hands-on experiences are not necessarily intended to build a high level of expertise with these technologies (since technologies are constantly changing), but rather to build confidence and capabilities to use technologies to solve a wide variety of problems.


    1. Gruber, M.J., B.D. Gelman, and C. Ranganath. 2014. States of Curiosity Modulate Hippocampus-Dependent Learning via the Dopaminergic Circuit. Neuron. 84(2):486-496. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2014.08.060
    2. https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/10/24/357811146/curiosity-it-may-have-killed-the-cat-but-it-helps-us-learn
    3. Institute for the Future. 2017. The Next Era of Human-Machine Partnerships. https://www.delltechnologies.com/content/dam/delltechnologies/assets/perspectives/2030/pdf/SR1940_IFTFforDellTechnologies_Human-Machine_070517_readerhigh-res.pdf
    4. International Technology Educators Association. 2000. “Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology.” http://www.iteaconnect.org/TAA/TAA.html.
    5. National Science and Technology Council Committee on STEM Education. 2018. Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wpcontent/uploads/2018/12/STEM-Education-Strategic-Plan-2018.pdf
    6. National Research Council 2006. Tech Tally: Approaches to Assessing Technological Literacy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.17226/11691
    7. Katehi, L., G. Pearson, and M. Feder, Editors. 2009. Engineering in K-12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects; National Research Council Committee on K-12 Engineering Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
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