Even our youngest students are exposed to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts which build their confidence and curiosity.
Here's a great description of what happens in our classrooms during an elementary STEM lesson:
- The kids are moving in class. STEM classes feature student-centered activities that interest students, involving them in a project-based lesson which asks them to solve a real-world problem. They are up and moving as they gather materials, plan, construct, and test prototypes.
- Noise is welcomed and normal. Kids are busy throwing out ideas for solving the problem. They’re discussing and challenging each other’s ideas. They communicate with fellow team members as they figure out how to design a solution for the challenge.
- Kids are working successfully in teams. STEM kids don’t sit in straight rows and listen, they work together in small teams. They follow a set of teaming tips to build social skills and team successfully, and they regularly self-assess their teamwork.
- Kids are facilitators to learning. They have control of their learning. STEM teams take responsibility for developing their own solutions for their engineering challenge. Kids are up and doing things - brainstorming, designing, creating, experimenting, and redoing. This is an action-packed class.
- Adults are promoting engagement. One might be a parent. Another could be an engineer from a local industry. (How important would that make your kids feel?) These adults have specific tasks and know ahead of time what their roles will be in the classroom. They act as a resource, and they observe, encourage, and ask questions to help kids figure out answers and solutions. The teacher also rotates to different teams of kids and provides guidance as needed.
- Kids are using digital technology. They are researching information, entering data, and even illustrating results of their experiments on digital devices. They may be designing graphics for their prototypes, working on a project webpage, coding, and so on. And they may also be using non-digital technologies such as science equipment, math manipulatives, and other things created to meet learning needs.
- Kids are equally involved. Class is positioned to break traditional gender roles and allow all students equal time and voice to come up with creative ideas, work well in teams, and stay engaged.
- Kids can explain how they are using science and math. They see a purpose for the math and science they have studied this year as they use it in their STEM project. More importantly, they actually combine these subjects in order to solve the problem. No STEM learning in isolation!
- The classroom is a Safe Zone. In STEM classes kids don’t get upset when their prototypes don’t work to solve the problem. Instead, they start redesigning to improve them. The teacher is positive and encouraging, and failure is not an issue. In fact, it’s the way they learn to make progress.
- Kids mimic engineers. They purposefully use a way of thinking that engineers use to solve problems (an engineering design process). Students demonstrate curiosity, innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity. A STEM engineering challenge has more than one possible solution, and different teams are taking different approaches.
- Kids are effective communicators. They use a variety of approaches – art, drama, speech, etc. – to describe their challenge and justify their results and/or recommendations.
- Thanks to DefinedLearning for this accurate description!