Curious George & The Case of STEM Learning
This month, Curious George steam-rolled into an all-new digital adventure thanks to the release of Curious George Train Adventures, brought to digital life by the partnership between Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Smashing Ideas. Curious George has been delighting and educating kids for 75 years, and as the beloved mischievous monkey continues to strengthen his presence in the digital world, he’s taking a refreshed approach to educating kids by employing STEM-based teachings into his series of adventures.
STEM is an education curriculum that emphasizes the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math. STEM-focused curriculum has been around for decades, but as digital transformation has been occurring across nearly every facet of personal and professional life, the emphasis on STEM-based education initiatives has rapidly advanced in the past 10 years; so much so that starting in 2009 the United States Department of Labor named 8 out of the 10 most wanted employees had STEM-related jobs, and make on average 26% more than non-STEM related jobs. Since 2009, the rate of growth in STEM occupations has grown steadily at 17%, as compared to general occupational growth of 9.8%, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Therefore, the industry tycoons of tomorrow just might be getting their first taste of a much needed STEM-based education through the games they play in their formative years.
STEM influences and guides most aspects of our lives, whether we are aware of this or not. Engineering, be it digital or physical, is the building-block for development, be it a bridge or a mobile word game. Technology itself has changed the world we live in…from computers we carry in our pockets that give us 24/7 access to virtually any piece of information we seek to physicians practicing complex heart transplants via virtual reality, minimizing human-error. Science quite literally makes up the world in which we live and participate in. And, last, math comprises how we interact with basic essentials, from telling time to calculating how long it would take you to drive from Vancouver to Disneyland.
STEM is critical for success in an increasingly digital world as we continue to become a knowledge-based economy. The emphasis on developing these skills lies heavily, too heavily, on the educational systems of our youth. By taking and deploying a STEM-based approach to engagements kids interact with on a daily basis – say, games – STEM learning spans more than the classroom and becomes an integral part of the early developmental process.
STEM in Curious George.
Curious George Train Adventures is an iPad/iPhone mobile game for kids ages 4-6, and heavily utilizes STEM learning to grow healthy learning patterns around the 4 core principles, coupled with a healthy dose of fun. The game takes kids on a learning adventure via an interactive train ride that zigs and zags through 4 engaging worlds: Tiki Adventures, Frosty Wonderland, Zany Meadows and Space Spectacular.
George – and his beloved Man with the Yellow hat – are in need of help. They are tasked with delivering much-needed supplies to build an amusement park. The players will go through a series of STEM-based games and puzzles to help them deliver the goods on their train. Scientific thinking, problem-solving, rudimentary engineering concepts, etc. are taught through a series of puzzles and games that take a core STEM principle and apply it to the challenge at hand, i.e. understanding the concepts of physics that allow for a bridge to be raised or a gate opened, or understanding how the swiping movement on your phone clears debris. Additional STEM-based principles such as navigating obstacles, comprehending speed, how gravity impacts the way items move, and the physics behind opening and closing objects are taught in a subtle manner that harnesses the power of play.
“Curious George Train Adventures offers children a developmentally appropriate, fun introduction to sophisticated concepts, sparking curiosity and tapping into kids’ natural tendencies to experiment, build, discover and play,” notes Leigh Zarelli, SVP, Consumer Brands at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. *
A curious case of fun.
Fun + STEM learning = foundational skills that will start kids on the path to greater development than traditional education alone. By layering STEM principles with supporting foundational skills in other areas of developmental growth, kids develop a strong sense of perseverance, memory, comprehension, and self-reliance, all while helping George and the Man in the Yellow Hat build a world of enchantment and wonder. It’s a win-win for parents, educators and kids alike, and it’s a fresh approach to building skills that are becoming increasingly necessary in our digital world.