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Planning for a Great Back-to-School STEM Lesson

Janelle Cox

It’s back to school time, and what’s a better way to start the school year than with an effective STEM lesson? STEM lessons are the perfect way to engage students and bring your curriculum alive. As you prepare your classroom for the fall, think about how STEM learning can help meet the demands of today’s educational requirements. STEM education, otherwise known as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, is an essential component of 21st century education. Planning an effective back-to-school STEM lesson will help students become proficient in these areas, and will give them the skills they need in order to succeed in the future. Here are a few tips on planning a great back to school STEM lesson that will help you reach and teach all students.

Back to School STEM Questions to Ask Yourself

When planning your back to school STEM lesson, there are a few questions that you need to consider. The first question is, “Does the lesson I’m thinking of identify a real-world problem?” Your goal with any STEM lesson is to choose a topic that will pique your students’ interest so they’ll want to learn more. Luckily, there is an endless amount of real-world problems that still need solutions, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one. If you can’t think of anything, then you can visit Engineering Challenges for some ideas.

The next question you should ask yourself is, “Are there multiple solutions to this STEM lesson?” Students should be able to use their critical thinking skills to come up with different solutions that would all work effectively to solve the problem. For example, if the lesson was having students come up with a hands-on digital tool for a managing their homework assignments, then there would need to be multiple ways that would work.

Lastly, you need to consider if the lesson is hands-on. STEM lessons are meant to immerse students in inquiry, and one way to do that is to ensure that students are solving problems through hands-on exploration. Students should use the engineer design process by drawing on science, math, and technology to help them come up with multiple solutions.

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Make Sure You’re Utilizing Technology

Technology is always changing and growing, and if you’re not keeping up-to-date with the latest tech tools, then you’re going to miss out. As you’re planning your back to school STEM lessons, think about what pieces of technology that you want to use. Think about how you want students to utilize technology. Do you want them to use it to look up ideas, record information, communicate with others, or all of the above? As you’re considering the technological possibilities, consider using a variety of tech tools to help students solve their real-world STEM projects.

Examine Your STEM Workspace

In order for students to truly thrive in a STEM learning environment, the physical space must be ideal. Look around your classroom and think about if the space is free of clutter, has room for students to move about and collaborate, as well as an area to work independently. Notice if there is an area to utilize technology, a place where desks can be grouped together, and if the room has enough natural light so students are able to work properly. An ideal STEM classroom has all of these components to ensure that students will succeed.

Think About Student Collaboration and Communication

The ability for students to work together and communicate successfully is a very important component to a STEM lesson being an effective and productive lesson. When planning your back-to-school STEM lessons, think about grouping. Ask yourself, “What types of groups worked in the past? What things need to change? What is the best way for students to communicate effectively?” Students need to be able to communicate clearly with one another in order to find a solution to their STEM problem, so the way that you pair or group students is vital.

Characteristics of a Great STEM Lesson

Ideally, there are six characteristics that make up a good STEM lesson:

  • It focus on real-world issues.
  • It’s guided by the engineering process.
  • It immerses students in hands-on inquiry.
  • It involves students working together collaboratively.
  • It applies math and science content.
  • It has multiple correct solutions.

As long as your back-to-school STEM project has these six components, then you’ve provided students with an effective lesson.

In short, an effective STEM lesson starts with you. From the way that you plan your activities to the questions you ask, and the learning space you provide students, it will all affect the way your students learn. While there is no real right or wrong way to planning and implementing STEM lessons, it’s important to be able to craft an effective lesson that will reach and teach all students.

How do you implement STEM education into your classroom? Do you have back to school STEM tips?


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 a master’s of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com 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 Educatorsor contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.