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Today’s teachers have a lot on their plate. A packed curriculum, students with a range of learning needs, never-ending meetings with colleagues and a mountain of assessments that need marking. How can you possibly fit one more thing into your day? But with the current push for STEM in schools, teachers are faced with a new challenge: how do you implement STEM in the classroom?
Nobody should be using technology, resources or activities just for the sake of it. If it’s not making a positive difference to your learning program, then don’t bother. But how can you successfully use STEM to engage your students, improve their learning and develop their STEM skills?
Whether you’re totally new to STEM or have already started using it at your school, there are a few things you can do to incorporate it in your classroom in a meaningful way.
Related post: STEM in the Language Arts Classroom
Think About What You’re Already Doing
You don’t have to overhaul your entire teaching style and learning program to fit STEM in. Keep doing what you’re doing, but think about ways students could use STEM in their everyday classroom activities. Can they use the internet to do their research? Present their project using a 3D model? Maybe use an online program to practise their times tables? Making small tweaks to your current classroom activities will make STEM an effective part of your students’ learning.
You don’t have to blow your classroom budget on a full range of equipment to see the benefits of STEM. Start with a resource you feel comfortable using and build up from there. And if you’re running your classroom on a shoestring budget, don’t despair – STEM resources don’t have to be big and expensive to be effective. Try using low-cost materials or use things you already have. Pipe cleaners and play dough can be just as effective as a robotics kit!
If digital technology is not your thing, it’s time to start embracing it! Not all activities require technology, but it is a big part of STEM so you might have to get on board. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help though, so check with your colleagues if you get stuck or need guidance. You might even decide to take a short course or do some extra training. You can start with the basics and develop your skills from there. Before you know it, you’ll be as tech savvy as your students!
Have a Play
Thinking about implementing STEM in your classroom can be overwhelming, especially if these subject areas are not your usual strengths. If you have a new STEM resource, just have a play. Use it yourself when students aren’t around and see exactly what it can do. You’ll be more confident using it in a STEM lesson if you’ve already experimented with it and tried everything it has to offer.
Get Hands On
STEM is all about hands on learning, so let your students get busy with technology, equipment and resources. Small group activities always work well, so you might need to move students’ desks around to better suit this style of learning. Encourage teamwork and experimentation and let your class engage in effective hands on activities. This might mean your classroom gets a little noisier than usual, but rest assured they will be learning a lot!
Set a Challenge
STEM is inquiry-driven so give your students a problem to solve. Quality learning happens when they investigate a question and find a solution. They might not come up with the right answer, but they’ll learn just as much through trial and error. Make the challenge about a real world issue that’s relevant to their lives. Is your school having problems with littering in the playground? Have them design a new waste disposal system. Is the canteen looking to change their menu? Have students investigate healthy new options. The possibilities are endless!
Change Your Vocabulary
If you’re implementing STEM in your classroom, think about the words you’re using. If you can start modelling STEM vocabulary whenever you can, this will get your students thinking on the right track. This means words like experiment, observe, plan, design and brainstorm. Use them as much as possible throughout all parts of the school day so your students are familiar and comfortable with them.
Look for Inspiration
Teachers are a creative bunch and they love to share their success stories. If you’re not sure where to start with STEM, get online and see what other educators are doing. Or if you have a particular STEM activity in mind, look online to see how other classrooms approached it. From teaching forums to Pinterest, there’s a wealth of ideas out there. Spend some time searching the internet and we guarantee inspiration will hit you hard!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is STEM education?
STEM education integrates science, technology, engineering and maths into all areas of the curriculum. Students develop skills like problem solving, creativity and collaboration. STEM has become an important focus for many schools in recent years.
Why is STEM important?
STEM is becoming an increasingly important part of our lives and we need to reflect this in our classrooms. A STEM education prepares students for a changing economy where science, technology, engineering and maths occupations make up a greater percentage of the workforce. Using STEM in our classrooms means our students will be ready for the world when they’re older.
What are STEM materials?
STEM materials can include anything from a top of the range drone kit to a packet of rubber bands! STEM materials include anything that allows your students to get hands on with their learning. They don’t have to be complicated and they don’t have to be expensive.
What is an example of a STEM activity?
A STEM activity can involve anything from a simple Lego challenge to building and coding a robot. Choose an activity based on the age and skill level of your students and the learning outcome you want to achieve.
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