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It’s no secret that too many young students are being left behind in the current education system. According to experts at the 2013 U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference, “… the natural curiosity that small kids have, where they touch everything, experiment and discover the world, is being trained out of them as they grown up learning things by rote to pass tests.”

Many are left feeling discouraged, overwhelmed, disengaged and just plain bored with much that goes on in the classroom. Education in the U.S. is failing its youth, and it’s evident that future job seekers lacking strong STEM skills won’t be able to compete.

EcoRise Youth Innovations was created with the intent of placing students at the center of learning solutions while teaching them to be creative problem solvers. The education program engages them in hands-on projects by introducing them to sustainability, design innovation and social entrepreneurship.

One of our longtime partner teachers, Chris Brooks, science teacher at Small Middle School in Austin, continues to inspire and challenge his new students with EcoRise projects. Because the program is customizable, Chris and other middle and high school STEM teachers, are able to integrate EcoRise lessons without sacrificing important concepts assessed on standardized tests.

This year, Chris and his students have plans to study water related subjects using the Eco-Audit curriculum as well as a Design project focused on how to manage water on the school campus. The design-solution aspect will include water catchment, rain garden natural approaches and modified gray water system.

Using tools like these, EcoRise is helping change the classroom scene where a teacher lectures to students to one where the teacher facilitates and encourages the students. The critical thinking, problem solving, leadership skills and STEM enrichment developed in these courses can be applied across disciplines. This is the real value of teaching 21st century skills to the next generation of problemsolvers.

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