In our society we have information directly at our finger tips all day every day. “Hi Alexa. Can you tell me how…..” We no longer have to wait for information, and have less opportunities to problem solve on our own. What does this do to your mindset? How do you feel when there is a problem you feel stuck on? How are you at making decisions? Unfortunately, Alexa probably isn’t going to answer your question about why your friend, wife, husband, sibling, or parent is upset. It isn’t going to help you join the water cooler conversation at work, help you artfully break news to an investor or client, or help you navigate the ups and downs of relationships. This is why it is so important we teach ourselves and our children the power of social observation, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness. We need be gentle with ourselves when we don’t know, and excited about the opportunity.
Because not knowing is the best way to start thinking again.
Using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) Projects to Teach Self Awareness & Social Observation
I recently began incorporating STEM projects into my group Social Lessons with my students who struggle with social-cognitive competencies and social anxiety. I developed the idea from Michelle Garcia Winner’s “Thinking About You Thinking About Me” as I noticed that a majority of my students struggling to navigate social situations in the academic setting also did not understand the difference between the vocabulary “Think”, “Know”, and “Guess”. I also noticed that these were the same students that would not raise their hands if they were not 100% sure of an answer, and then if they were wrong may not participate for the rest of the day.
Winner explains that lack of knowledge related to these vocabulary words appears to directly link to a person’s ability to understand other’s thoughts and motives. For some, directly teaching the meanings of these words can expand perspective taking skills. Helping children to use the information in their environment to identify what they know about a person or situation, what they think, and then to make logical guesses about things that may happen. You can imagine that difficulty integrating this information may cause more than a little stress.
I set out to find a simple STEM project where I could demonstrate concretely the difference between the terms. We chose a simple Catapult Project where the students built a Catapult using popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and a spoon. We then laid out the terms.
The students needed to “think” about how many of each supply they would need, and then use the vocabulary to gain the supplies (ex: “I think I need 12 popsicle sticks, because of the picture). They then assembled the catapults and had to “guess” the distance that the catapult would launch their bead. After that they recorded with a tape measurer how far the bead went and stated what they “knew” based on their measurements! We discussed how you “know” information from hearing it or seeing it, how you make “smart guesses” based on clues (ex: the materials you use, the weight of the bead), and how you “think” or plan when you are completing a project based on information you have in front of you, or that you have seen, or learned, or even your own imagination and experiences. Our next step is to introduce these terms with thinking about others (based on social cues) in our social setting.
After this activity it was easy when my students would respond with “I don’t know” for my answer to be “I am not asking you to know, I am asking you to think!”
Let your mind wander today,