By Teachers, For Teachers
Meeting the demands of 21st century education means implementing STEM education into your curriculum. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education imparts the knowledge for students to fully understand each component of science, technology, engineering, and math. While there is no real right or wrong way to implement STEM lessons, it’s important to be able to craft an effective lesson that will reach and teach all students. Here are a few practical tips and questions you can ask yourself when planning out your STEM lesson.
When designing your STEM lesson, ask yourself the following questions:
The first thing that you have to ask yourself is if the lesson that you are creating identifies a real-world issue. Your goal is to create a STEM lesson that will pique your students’ interest and entice them to want to investigate more into the issue. For example, students may try to design a solution to make a product safer, or figure out how to make something that can protect the wildlife in their community. There is an endless amount of real-world problems that students can create solutions for, you just have to know where to find them. If you’re working with younger children, you can find a variety of different engineering-related activities on PBSkids.org. If you’re working with older students, then you can find problems on Engineeringchallenges.org.
The next question that you have to ask yourself is if your students can relate to the problem that you have chosen. If you really want your students to increase their learning during this activity, then you should give students a few options to choose from. This will help them to take ownership of their learning, which is a great way to increase their learning. Pick a few problems that you think students would be concerned about. If you can, try and relate it to their school. For example, these may include something that has to do with their health and the food they eat, going “Green” for their environment, or creating something that will help them in sports or music class. All of these things students can relate to.
The key to an effective STEM lesson is that it must have multiple solutions. For example, if students were working on a solution to help their classmate who is in a wheelchair be able to carry all of his belongings, there is not only one correct solution to this problem. Students should be able to use their critical thinking skills to come up with different ideas and solutions that would all work effectively.
Another question that you must ask yourself is if the lesson incorporates science, technology, engineering, and math. While the best STEM lessons would incorporate all of the four components, they do not have to be equally distributed in order for the lesson to be effective. Also, when you integrate math and science into the lesson, students will learn that these two subjects work together in order to solve a problem. Oftentimes, students think of each individual subject as its own entity, but when they see that they work together, it will add more relevance to their learning.
STEM lessons are meant to immerse students in inquiry, and one way to do that is to ensure that they are solving problems through hands-on exploration. Try and use the project-based learning approach, which features flexibility and choice. Encourage students to work on possible solutions through hands-on investigations. This will help students to use their creativity, explore ideas, take risks, and analyze their mistakes.
Here are four suggestions on how to make your STEM lesson even better.
Make sure the lesson requires students to create a model or prototype. Creating a model is essential for student understanding. Students can visually see their solutions come to life and can redesign as they see fit.
Utilize technology. Technology can be very helpful when creating a solution to a real-world problem. Students can use it to help them in their research, or use it as part of their design. Be sure to point out that technology plays an essential role in each STEM lesson.
Have Students work collaboratively. Collaboration is key when it comes to STEM lessons. Students should work together to solve the problem. Teamwork will help students develop their communication and interpersonal skills.
Build creativity by showcasing students’ results. Every good project needs an audience. Before students even start to find a solution to their real-world problem, instruct them that they will communicate their results to an audience. This audience can be parents, fellow students, on a blog, through a poster, or even on Skype. As long as there is an audience, students must communicate their ideas.
In order for students to have the skills that are necessary for living in the 21st century, it’s essential to plant the seeds today that will make them successful in the future. Remember that an effective STEM lesson starts with you. Everything that you do, from the way you plan your activities to the questions that you ask students, can turn an ordinary classroom into a productive 21st century learning environment.
How do you implement STEM education into your classroom? Do you have any tips, suggestions, or strategies that you like to use? Please share with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.