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STEM Education: Empowering Vulnerable Children to Reach Their Full Potential

Much of what we do at Cadaniño is helping people discover, embrace, and cultivate the gifts God has given them and learn what it means to use them to their greatest potential in a way that glorifies Him.

The Bible teaches that each person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and is uniquely gifted and called to serve Him (Colossians 3:23-24).

We see ourselves as stewards of the students who enroll in our programs. As part of our responsibility to serve well, we need to help those in our programs make the most of the talents, gifts, and abilities God has given them.

But for the students we serve, vulnerable children who often live in chaotic high-risk environments, this can be a challenge.

We have found that using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs is a wonderful way to accomplish this.

STEM learning tools enable our teachers to introduce students to new concepts and provide fun learning experiences that challenge students to expand their understanding. All the while offering guidance, giving feedback, providing encouragement, motivating students, and giving them the support they need to accomplish the tasks at hand, no matter how challenging.

Ever since a number of our first students received scholarships to attend a two-month robotics and electronics training course at STEAM Guatemala in 2018, we have seen the value of STEM education and have been intentional in finding ways to make it a core part of our programming.

By giving students the opportunity to learn essential concepts while they are having fun and doing what seems like play, we have created an incredibly effective way to develop their abilities.

Here are a few of the benefits we have seen in our STEM learning program:

  1. Develops critical thinking skills. STEM learning programs focus on problem-solving and critical thinking skills, essential for success in any field. By participating in STEM activities, our students can develop these skills to serve them well in their future academic and professional endeavors.

  2. Teaches structure and patience. Following instructions in precisely the proper sequence or the projects they do will not work takes patience and teaches students the importance of order and accuracy.

  3. Builds resilience. It teaches students to embrace a growth mindset, where failure is a learning opportunity. They learn to experiment, iterate, and try again, developing resilience and creativity. Emphasizing the learning process over the outcome encourages children to value effort and persistence, skills that help them adapt to change and succeed in all areas of their lives.

  4. Promotes equality. By having girls participate alongside boys in projects often seen as a man's domain in this culture, we promote gender equality and empower our female students to understand that they are just as capable as their male counterparts.

  5. Teaches collaboration. By working with other students on the projects, students develop teamwork and collaboration skills through shared goals, task division, feedback, and learning from others. Skills that are essential for success in STEM and beyond.

  6. Encourages innovation and entrepreneurship. STEM learning programs can inspire children to think outside the box, leading to new ideas and entrepreneurial ventures, which are incredibly important in developing countries where entrepreneurship is essential for economic growth and development.

  7. Provides a path out of poverty. STEM education prepares students for the job market and provides a way out of poverty. Learning STEM skills equip students for future employment and community development. Moreover, it leads to jobs that pay well and allows vulnerable children to break the cycle of poverty.

A few of the tools we use are:

  • KNEX Education. A 3D STEM learning platform where students learn building concepts and develop their physical dexterity, fine motor skills, and problem-solving.

  • Snap Circuits. An electronics toolkit that teaches engineering and physical science principles and introduces students to the components of basic circuitry, including electronic flow, positive/negative poles, resistors, capacitors, serial and parallel circuitry, and more.

  • Meccano. Construction sets that encourage kids to learn about STEM skills while having fun. Using motors, wheels, levers, pulleys, gears, etc., students are challenged to understand how and why things work the way they do.

  • LEGO. An effective tool for teaching kids STEM skills as they can learn through play, which makes the learning process engaging and enjoyable. Building with LEGO allows children to experiment, persist through challenges, and find creative solutions to problems.

  • Khan Academy. An online math learning platform that our students use to supplement the often-limited math teaching in public schools.

  • Computer Science. Coding, programming, and IT courses that help students develop real-world technology skills.

We have seen that STEM education is a valuable tool in a well-rounded program that helps those we serve to develop critical thinking skills, learn to collaborate with others, break down gender stereotypes, encourage innovation, prepare students for future careers, and helps them discover and cultivate their God-given talents and abilities so they can use them in a way that glorifies Him.


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