S.T.E.M. and Success: A Parent Interview

Blog editor Anna Carrington sat down with Julie Schroeder, a physician and mother of one MSA alumna and two current MSA seniors. All three of her children are pursuing careers in “S.T.E.M.” fields—science, technology, engineering, and math. The following is an edited version of our conversation.

There’s a lot of emphasis these days on S.T.E.M.-based education and preparing students for the modern economy. What has that looked like for your family?

My children have always been interested in engineering and the sciences. In many ways, the S.T.E.M. initiatives we see in public schools and elsewhere would have served them well—but only in a technical sense. Our experience is that students can round out their technical knowledge pretty easily at a university. They can learn how to do research in a big science lab. But Morning Star is preparing them to succeed in much deeper and richer ways as lifelong learners, collaborators, and thoughtful citizens.

Morning Star is a classical Christian school grounded in pursuing what is good, true, and beautiful. All of the subject areas encourage a deeper understanding of God’s world, how we are made in His image, and how in Christ all things hold together. Can you share an example of this from your students’ time at MSA?

My son Caleb is writing his senior thesis—a capstone requirement for all Morning Star graduates—on numeracy. He is considering how students might better appreciate the beauty of math instead of thinking of math as simply knowing and using mathematics. The roots of the word “numeracy” are numbers (or numeric) and literacy, which shows how the field is like the literacy of reading and writing.

What are some attributes you think students will need to succeed in their careers? How has Morning Star fostered these?

Two come to mind right away: 1) the ability to consider others’ perspectives and 2) working on a team.

Morning Star offers a sequence of courses that not only conveys a biblical worldview but also teaches students how to perceive and ask questions about other worldviews. The sequence starts in eighth grade with logic, continues into ninth with rhetoric, then comparative religion in tenth, worldview in eleventh, and finally senior thesis.

Students learn to hear arguments critically, identify others’ worldviews and better understand where they’re coming from. Why are they holding that view and making that particular argument? There are many applications for this skill, from understanding scientific theories to interpreting data. You could ask: How is someone interpreting the data? What are some assumptions they might have and how do they factor into their conclusions?

My sons’ class has a great dynamic that encourages discourse. Sometimes they take an opposing view just to keep the conversation going and bring out more discussion. They are learning to say to one another, “I can see where you’re coming from,” even if they might disagree. That posture will serve them well in their future careers.

You also mentioned being part of a team. Can you give me an example?

My daughter Sarah, who is now in college, played Mustang varsity girls’ basketball. The team was small and Sarah learned to be flexible and serve where she was needed each game. When she was applying for an internship recently, the supervisor asked her about her time as team captain and she was able to share those stories of perseverance and teamwork.

Thanks for sharing your experiences. What advice would you give to parents of younger students?

We are not just training students for professions, we are also training them to be discerning consumers and wise citizens. Regardless of your child’s particular interests—whether they love math, science, art, or literature—they are going to be citizens of a community and hopefully members of a local church. We’re preparing them for service in those arenas, too.

Julie Schroeder is a family medicine physician and mother of two Morning Star students and one graduate. She serves as director of Missions at Our Savior Lutheran Church and has volunteered in many ways at Morning Star over the last 15 years.

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