1. Increase STEM awareness and interest
A key goal of Paige & Paxton is to expose children to STEM careers as early as possible. Children are already thinking about who they are and how they fit into the world around them. They aspire to be firefighters, police officers, entertainers, doctors, fairy princesses, and superheroes. So why not botanists, chemists, computer programmers, mathematicians and structural engineers? The adults around children often ask them: What do you want to be when you grow up? Consider that children’s answers to this question have not changed much over the last decade. Even more profound, their answers do not change much as they progress through high school and college. When young adults were asked their reason for not pursuing a career in STEM, 34% responded that they did not know much about STEM fields!
2. Provide relevant, hands-on experiences
Paige & Paxton necessarily has a robust, inquiry-based component that allows children to engage in open-ended exploration. In addition to hands-on challenges and projects, Paige & Paxton programming goes one step further: rather than just a litany of projects that create “cool” structures, explosions, and yucky experiments, Paige & Paxton provides context and real-world relevance through the lens of the child.
3. Foster STEM identity
Research shows that when it comes to girls and children of color, success in STEM requires a sense of STEM identity. Paige & Paxton delivers this in two ways. First, Paige & Paxton content and curricula are centered around two anamorphic puzzle piece characters who are searching for their identity and find their “perfect fit” in STEM careers. Paige & Paxton and their Puzzleland cohorts present a very diverse and inclusive view of STEM, which is particularly important in delivering effective STEM programming to schools with diverse populations.
Second, we foster STEM identity through projects that help children to align their interests and abilities to the skills of scientists, technologists, and engineers. Children are actually notified that they are going to engage in "the work” of the appropriate STEM professional, “identified” as such (e.g. structural engineers) and made aware of the specific tools of the trade that they are using (e.g. prototyping/modeling) as they solve “real” problems.
4. Nurture 21st-century workforce skills
Paige & Paxton nurtures 21st-century workforce skills at an early age. These soft skills are transferable from job to job, career to career, and industry to industry. Soft skills are introduced through the storylines in the Paige & Paxton texts and through intentional design of the STEM challenges, projects, and experiments. For example, projects allow for multiple right answers and re-frame failure as a necessary part of learning. Children are encouraged and supported to approach projects from different perspectives, and all outcomes are validated as important and contributing to the overall body of knowledge in each project. Because we view soft skills as core to the Paige & Paxton methodology, we address their importance and incorporate specific tools and strategies for teachers and facilitators into our onboarding and professional development curriculum.
Children have fun because they’re engaged in meaningful activities where they’re able to create, tinker, innovate and build something that is uniquely theirs. Paige & Paxton enlightens and empowers children to think of themselves as someone who can do anything and go anywhere.
Children are engaged in multiple ways: 1) through the storylines and foibles of the puzzle piece characters who are asking many of same questions and having the same experiences as the children; 2) by eliciting those “aha” moments that make STEM real and relevant to their world now; 3) by shifting the paradigm from consumption to creation and 4) by showing them that they, too, can engage in science and engineering right here and now.