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How to Prepare Kids to Excel in Jobs that Don’t Exist Yet

Ferguson works with classroom teachers to make STEM-based lessons relevant for the students, hands-on, engaging and purpose-driven.

The task before Washington STEM Teacher of the Month and CenturyLink grant recipient Doug Ferguson isn’t just challenging – it’s a bit vague, too.

The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Integration Specialist recognizes that “by some estimates, more than half of the jobs our Kindergarteners will have don’t exist yet.” Still, Ferguson and his colleagues are rising to the challenge before them.

Ferguson works with classroom teachers to make STEM-based lessons “relevant for the students, hands-on, engaging and purpose-driven.” He then helps teachers integrate the lesson or idea across the day and even across their curriculum to help students understand the broad ways that STEM subjects relate to the other things they’re learning.

One way that Ferguson is helping students get future-ready is through his participation in the Engineering Fellows Program launched by Washington STEM and Washington MESA. Through the program, teachers from across Washington state can collaborate with professional engineers and advanced engineering students. Ferguson and other teachers participating can approach the pros, saying “I have the standard and I have what I imagine this to be, but what do you actually do?”

By grounding their lessons in the realities of STEM careers rather than the theoretical, program participants can better help prepare kids for the challenges they’ll actually face. When they share what they’ve learned and refine findings into best practices, students all over the state will benefit.

Of course, Ferguson knows that not every student will grow up to be an engineer. He still believes the lessons he’s teaching to be extremely relevant. “STEM is going to be relevant to [these kids] in their everyday life in some way, shape or form,” he argues, “whether that’s making healthcare decisions, or deciding whether to buy a genetically modified food or determining how to vote on current political issues. We want citizens who are scientifically literate.”

Even beyond the hard skills and knowledge, Ferguson believes that the approach to problem-solving taught in STEM subjects will serve his students well no matter what career they choose. Critical thinking, problem solving, hypothesizing and other skills tied to STEM subjects are almost universally helpful for those in the working world – whatever their jobs turn out to be.

CenturyLink is a global communications hosting, cloud and IT services company committed to strengthening and improving the communities it serves. CenturyLink focuses its philanthropic and volunteer efforts on K-12 education programs that support technology-focused initiatives. Learn more about CenturyLink here.

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