43 Minutes Can Change a Life

Solar Car
Solar Car

My readers are well-familiar with my passion for education, especially as it pertains to dyslexia and other reading challenges. But other aspects of education are important as well, and that will be our focus today. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, aka STEM, are facets of education that can prove challenging in their own right; these fields seem quite intimidating and outside the comfort zones of a sizeable portion of kids, especially girls. I say that because when I went to school and later college, these areas were considered complex, challenging fields, and a male domain by society in general, therefore there were very few females enrolled in such majors. Thankfully, that tide is starting to turn, and now more kids—including girls—are showing an interest in these important, fulfilling fields of study.

Dream Big PosterThis past July 4, my wife and I spent a lovely day at the Bullock Museum in Austin. We saw the IMAX production: “Dream Big: Engineering Our World,” a special feature produced by the Bechtel Corporation. This film is remarkable for so many reasons.

  • It celebrates the engineering wonders of the world, ancient and modern.
  • It informs the public about the important work engineers do.
  • It encourages a change in perceptions about the profession.
  • It aims to inspire young people to embrace STEM educational opportunities.
  • It shows engaged participation in engineering experiments and projects by the youth of all genders and walks of life.

From the Great Wall of China, Egypt’s Pyramids, designing the world’s tallest buildings to withstand high winds, engineering better building methods to survive earthquakes, devising innovative ways to create potable water, to alternative energy and self-driving cars, this documentary has something to engage every young person. And no matter what you envision for our future, engineering, math, science, and technology will play key roles.

Dream Big - Falkirk Wheel From Side
Falkirk Wheel From Side

One aspect I especially appreciated was the way the film works to reverse the fear of failure. No one hits on the solution to every problem the first time, every time.  The Educator Guide states:

“For most students, failure is perceived as a direct reflection of their intellectual abilities, rather than a stepping stone to success and a natural part of the learning and creating process. Apprehension, frustration, disappointment, and a sense of defeat are all natural responses to failure. Harnessing these emotions to drive grit and perseverance is critical to the success of these activities and is a valuable life skill reaching far beyond a student’s academic career. Parents and educators can expunge the stigma students associate with failure by modeling positive responses to it—by perceiving failures as opportunities to explore new ideas and try alternative methods while practicing the art of persistence.

Golden Gate Bridge Aerial Photo

“Overcoming a fear of failure is particularly important in encouraging girls and minorities to pursue careers in engineering. According to US News and World Report, girls and boys with similar interests, test scores, and confidence levels in 10th grade have drastically different views of physics in 12th grade. Boys are more likely to pursue a class that interests them, no matter how well they tested in math, while girls who are interested in physics may shy away if they feel that their math test scores aren’t high enough, even if their test scores are on par with boys’.

“Engineers see failure very differently. They intentionally look for the failure points of their design and use them as points to strengthen and improve their solutions.

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generator

“To develop a culture of inquiry and resilience, both of which are characteristics of every engineer, consider the following tips:

  • Acknowledge mistakes with a smile. Inquire about what can be done differently to produce the desired result.
  • Implement a system that encourages students to share ideas for improvement.
  • Empower students to make decisions, and reward creativity regardless of how extravagant the idea.
  • Explore every suggestion even if success has already been achieved.
  • Educate students on how to use new tools, and encourage them to use these tools during their investigations.”
Twisting Shanghai Tower
Twisting Shanghai Tower

Why not plan a trip to an IMAX theater during your summer travels with your family? This film is not to be missed! Truly, a 43-minute documentary can change a life, perhaps even the life of your own child! And keep the momentum going with the plethora of free downloads, age-rated activities, and other resources from the website below.

Link to website:  http://www.dreambigfilm.com/

Lesson plans: http://www.dreambigfilm.com/education/

Other free downloads:  http://www.discovere.org/resources-downloads

If you’re looking for a series of exciting adventure books that helps reluctant readers, take a peek at the award-winning Sir Kaye series published by Cardboard Box Adventures Publishing. The audio editions of the Sir Kaye books are available on Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes.