To Teach STEM Effectively, Make It Fun [VIDEO]

In 2006, Sir Ken Robinson delivered a powerful TED Talk on how our current model for education prevents curiosity and kills the creativity that used to be so inherent to the nature of learning itself. Despite the massive popularity of his talk and the overnight growth of supporters for his philosophy in the United States, our education system still fails to hold up to global standards. Recently, Tech.Co got to sit down with WildWorks cofounder and CEO Clark Stacey, where he shared with us a belief about STEM education that very much aligns with with Sir Robinson’s.

“Kids can tell immediately if you work for them or for the man [teachers and parents],” says Stacey. “They see right through it…it’s about fun first and [then] sneaking the educational [bits] in there with it.”

WildWorks is an interactive entertainment company focused on engaging kids and their families. Animal Jam, an massively multiplayer online (MMO) game that allows kids to play as various animals and interact in different ecological environments. The game was launched back in 2010 in partnership with the National Geographic Society, and has grown to become one of the most popular games for young kids. And, while the game is certainly fun (I mean, what kid doesn’t want to play as their favorite animal to explore ecosystems similar to those in real life?), it provides kids with an entrée to ecology. And for Stacey, fun is essential to getting kids more engaged with topics in STEM.

“We’re asked by educators: can we incorporate more quantified learning into Animal Jam? Can we do quizzes? Can we get some more games about what kids are actually learning? [We respond with:] I don’t think that’s our role; our role is to engender curiosity about science. To get kids interested in something”

By allowing kids to engage with the content in a fun way, they organically develop a curiosity to explore further into these various science topics. For WildWorks, as a company, it’s much more meaningful and productive to approach education in this way, rather than openly demanding that kids answer 50 questions on a topic or pointing out the things they need to learn.

Watch the video below to learn more about what WildWorks CEO Clark Stacey says about the necessity for fun in education, as well as what his advice is for startups looking to larger organizations like National Geographic. WildWorks was one of our favorite companies at this year’s SXSW Interactive Trade Show.

This video series was made possible through the support of Microsoft BizSpark and TrepLife.

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Written by:
Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things. Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in 'Doctor Who', Murakami, 'The Mindy Project', and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a "writer". Tweet @RonaldPBarba.
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