As a science educator, I’m always searching for new and innovative ways to motivate my students. When my administrator first mentioned the ExploraVision science competition, I did not know what to expect. I assumed it would be another competition where students would be tasked with creating a run-of-the-mill science project. I was pleasantly surprised to see that ExploraVision encourages students to pursue topics that are relevant to their lives and communities, in order to show them the real-world applications of science and technology. It encouraged my students to foster critical thinking skills, practice their research skills, and most importantly, think outside the box.
Research on what motivates young students suggests that children are attracted to ideas that address both their cognitive and affective needs. As educators, we know that students must be interested and engaged in order to learn. Throughout the ExploraVision program, my classroom was determined to succeed in the tasks assigned to them. It is easy to understand why: ExploraVision empowers students to think beyond their educational abilities in order to bring a powerful idea to life. My class was able to think critically about how STEM will impact their future, and how technology can help improve the lives of individuals around the world.
A group of students working hard on their ExploraVision project.
During the team selection and planning process of the program, my students exceeded my expectations at every turn. They were more than capable of taking charge of the direction of their project. They selected their teammates based on their abilities and knowledge of the topic selected. They were also able to delegate responsibilities within the scope of the project, which really amazed me. Many of my students took the initiative to work on their projects in the STEM lab during their free time, which is when I really knew how much ExploraVision had resonated with them. The structure of the competition really allows students to feel confident in their abilities.
Building confidence and other soft skills through ExploraVision was an an added bonus that kept my students feeling motivated and engaged. As an ExploraVision coach, it allowed me to learn how to extend learning opportunities in STEM, while guiding my students through the design process and keeping the momentum through the final project submissions. This was an extraordinary and rewarding opportunity for both my students and myself.
A team of students discussing the design of their ExploraVision project.
About the Author
Lisa Salters is an elementary school teacher at the School of Science and Technology in the NYC Department of Education, where she specializes in STEM learning. Although she has taught for over ten years, this past year was her first time participating in the ExploraVision competition. The science program sparked an interest in her students that she had not yet seen, and she hopes to inspire other educators to introduce ExploraVision in their curriculums.