How to Integrate STEM Learning in Your Classroom
by Virginia Cooper
Image Source: Pexels
STEM education involves the integration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematical concepts to educate students using a hands-on approach. For educators looking for ways to integrate STEM lessons into their classroom, this article by Young Makers Lab will provide the best strategies to do so.
Why is STEM Important?
Traditional classroom learning is heavily based on the concept of memorization. On tests, students are judged more on their ability to remember and replicate information, rather than utilizing creative and critical thinking skills to find solutions. Creativity is a unique skill that all individuals are born with, but unfortunately, we unlearn it through traditional education lessons. This fact is well reported in the famous 1992 NASA experiment, which concluded that traditional modes of learning “dumb us down” in the long term.
The test developed by Dr. George Land and Dr. Beth Jarman was aimed at identifying creativity levels among children. They selected a group of 1600 children who were 5 years old in 1968. They were subsequently given the test again at ages 10 (1978) and 15 (1983). The results showed that when the children were 5 years old, 98% of them scored in the ‘highly creative’ range. By 1978 this number dropped to 30% and further to 12% in 1983. In comparison, they also tested 280,000 adults above the age of 25, out of which only 2% were found to be highly creative.
In addition to nurturing creativity, STEM lessons develop the following skills among students:
- Critical thinking
- Team management
- Independent learning
Including STEM Methods in the Classroom
Here are the best STEM teaching strategies to include in your classroom:
Instead of simply reading concepts from textbooks, allow students to learn through practice and experimentation. For example, to teach the concepts of buffer and litmus tests in chemistry, bring students to a lab and provide them with a live demonstration. Next, divide them into groups and allow them to repeat the experiment. To improve retention, post-experiment instruct students to note their observations in a book.
As reported by US News, this approach involves providing students an opportunity to develop skills by engaging in a project. During the project, students should retain full control, and your role as the teacher will be limited to providing them assistance when needed. Students are bound to face bottlenecks in their pursuit of finding a solution. But, this will act as encouragement to utilize critical thinking and creative skills. Common project-based activities include – building an app, creating a physical model, and designing a website.
This approach involves setting a problem and instructing students to develop their own solutions. Problems can be inspired by real-world issues such as a recent oil spill, climate change, etc. Divide students into groups and give them a set time to come up with solutions. In addition to critical thinking, such projects encourage students to conduct research which develops the habit of independent learning. During the course of the project, they’ll learn the importance of working in a team, how to be a leader, and finding creative solutions to real-life problems.
Bring in Guest Lecturers
Fellow STEM educators and experienced STEM professionals are great options to consider for guest lecturers. These individuals can provide students an idea of the importance of STEM in the real world through their work experiences. Additionally, they can guide students on how to pursue STEM careers, which can involve completing a bachelor’s degree, apprenticeships, being published, etc. Guest lecturers can also be assigned as mentors for students to guide them beyond the classroom.
Educators who want to improve their STEM expertise should consider pursuing an online Master’s degree. Being online, the degree provides the option to learn at your own pace while continuing to work as a teacher. Additionally, your degree will teach you more concepts and strategies to use in the classroom and become a better educator.
Educators need to take a lead role in developing interest in STEM learning among students. By using the above-mentioned strategies, you’ll help students maintain their creative thinking skills, enabling them to become successful innovators of tomorrow.