Identifying the framework for implementing STEM
Having identified the limitations, and challenges that are often faced by teachers and students alike in STEM, it has become imperative that we develop a curriculum that is aimed at helping both teachers and students in identifying, implementing, and applying both the scientific process as well as the Engineering design process. This new release allows teachers to develop the understanding of how to teach STEM. While educators are able to find a plethora of STEM activities, no publisher has provided the framework of how to use the various activities to do more than simply strike the imagination. This curriculum does just that. It is aimed at providing the framework of how to teach STEM while at the same time giving students the understanding of how to apply the framework in any learning situation no matter what the activity is that they are given to complete.
STEM officially stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The acronym STEM is often applied to occupations and positions related to these subjects, such as engineers, doctors, scientists, geologists, or computer programmers. People are said to be “STEM majors” if they study a related subject, such as chemistry, robotics, or genetics. More recently, “STEM” has become popularized as a method of teaching that is being emphasized from the high school level all the way down to early childhood. “STEM education” differs from traditional science and math education in that the method emphasizes process over results. Additionally, STEM education emphasizes the relationships between traditionally distinct subject areas. Although the acronym STEM is often used, other acronyms are beginning to add more subjects to the mix. For instance, the acronym STEAM adds an “art” to the core STEM concept and is quickly gaining popularity. STEM education was never limited to these subjects in its acronym, however. If you look closely, you will find that these core STEM concepts have connections to history, politics, geometry, language, and so many others.
In this curriculum we will emphasize the scientific method and the engineering design process as the two backbones holding up the STEM inquiry and design processes. We will discuss more about how to implement STEM education in your classroom below, but first let’s address the need for doing so in the first place.
Why is it important that we develop this curriculum?
Skills such as problem-solving and technical literacy are increasingly important in our modern world, and apply to careers even outside of the core STEM areas. The workforce increasingly demands technology savvy individuals that can effectively use and navigate increasingly complex tools and environments. Additionally, citizens need to be scientifically literate, independent thinkers in order to vote and affect policy change in a knowledgeable and purposeful way.
STEM education adds relevance to student’s learning by allowing their intrinsic desire for action to guide their learning and inquiry. This not only aids in knowledge acquisition, but also develops their independence and self-guided inquiry skills.
Unfortunately, curricula that address these concepts are often seen as only benefiting a small fraction of the students that may end up in technical STEM fields. This perception not only prevents students that go into non-STEM careers from benefiting from the technological literacy and process-based learning that STEM education offers, but it also may prevent students from entering STEM fields that otherwise might have. Women and minorities, who are already grossly underrepresented in the STEM fields, especially suffer from a lack of STEM education, especially in the formative early grades when subject interest and career direction are their most flexible. This course provides solid foundations for formalizing the implementation of STEM education in the upper elementary level.
Beyond this, though, the world is facing increasing dangers from air and water pollution, global warming, food distribution, and the availability of clean drinking water. These are problems that STEM fields are facing today, and it is of vital importance that we give our students the tools that they may need to collaborate and address these and other problems they may face as they throughout their lifetimes.
Implementing the true Elements of a STEM lesson
A STEM lesson typically involves a hands-on investigation of a real-world problem. The aim in this kit is to lead the children through authentic, process-based learning cycles that demonstrate the connections between traditionally distinct subjects and how they can be effectively applied in a practical way. Usually the children will solve a problem or investigate questions by learning to apply the scientific method or engineering design process to the unique situation. The goal is to have students connect the practices of science and technology to see how they relate to the study of the natural world and the design of human-made systems and objects. In an ideal STEM lesson, the context will be accessible to the learner, but the problem will be difficult enough to challenge the student and promote interest. Additionally, the subject matter should be able to spark connections to diverse subject areas to promote the integration of learning across subjects.
However, teaching these things is much more difficult than it may seem at first. For these open-ended questions and problems, there is no one correct answer or solution that the teacher can turn to for guidance. By their very nature, these projects have multiple possible solutions, and the distinction between “right” and “wrong” will vary greatly based on the individual situation.
The aim in this kit is to lead the children through authentic, process-based learning cycles that demonstrate the connections between traditionally distinct subjects and how they can be effectively applied in a practical way.
Instead of simply evaluating results, teachers must themselves become intimately acquainted with the scientific and engineering processes and learn to identify where children are in these processes as they go through multiple iterations. The effective teacher must not only learn to evaluate how well the design of an object meets its intended function, but the process the students used to arrive at their final design. How did the student do at evaluating the problem and analyzing the constraints? How well did they apply their prior knowledge to the design of a potential solution? How well could the students defend their reasons for making the decisions they did throughout the process? And how well were they able to objectively and accurately assess the effectiveness of their final product? It will take time and practice to be able to effectively evaluate student progress through the process-based learning involved in a STEM project, but with time the teacher will be able to accurately identify where the students are in the design cycle or scientific process. This level of familiarity will enable the teacher to guide the students through the inquiry process using probing or leading questions to guide students through the inquiry process.
This type of assessment throughout the project can help teachers to modulate their teaching to better meet the students’ needs throughout the inquiry-based projects. Of course summative assessment is used at the end of the cycle to determine the level to which the student’s design meets the stated need, but formative assessment can also be useful as students progress though the curriculum. This can take the form of asking students to reflect on their work and process, or by looking at their written record of thought processes as they move through the design process. Armed with this information, teachers can construct lessons to meet student needs and redirect students as necessary as they move through the engineering and scientific processes.
With a demonstrated increase in understanding and application of STEM techniques, both in the scientific method as well as the engineering design process, our testing indicated that teachers are just as much beneficiaries of this set of materials as are students.
Data graphing implementation
Concept application cards
Major STEM Project, and