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General Science and Teaching

Getting Students Interested in STEM

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Abby Lynn Abby Lynn 80 Points

I am a preservice teacher in my third year at Wartburg College. Throughout my time working with students so far, I have noticed that students are having lower confidence levels when it comes to STEM. How would you encourage these students and show them that they are excelling in STEM?


Abby McKee

-Preservice Teacher

Shontell Davis Shontell Davis 2162 Points

Hi Abby

I teach in Louisiana. I tell my students that FAILURE = SUCCESS! I have it posted on my board. I tell my students that I expect them to fail first when working on STEM activities especially. I have found that they are more willing to participate when I elaborate on the "why it didnt't work" than "it didn't work"! Besure to celebrate the mistakes. I teach in a low income school, so confidence building is my mind job most days. Hope this helps!

Gabe Kraljevic Gabe Kraljevic 4564 Points

First off, tell your students that it took 400,000 highly-trained engineers, scientists and technicians 9 years to launch Apollo 11 to the moon.  LOTS of failures along the way.  So, they can cut themselves a bit of slack!

I think that one of the worst things we do is say, "OK, we're doing something different!  We're going to do STEM!" If a student conducts a lab, gathers data (perhaps with the help of a probe, camera, measuring device), summarizes the data in a graph, writes a report or makes a poster that discusses the results, comes to a conclusion and reflects on the process to suggest improvements - they have just done STEM.

I think the newest and likely most foreign aspect of STEM is introducing engineering design process. Perhaps later in the course they design and perhaps create a structure, a prototype machine or a set of procedures and reflect on their results - they have now done a little more engineering. 

I believe we have overcomplicated "STEM" and perhaps have transferred a bit of our own anxieties about teaching it to our students.  

I have a shared library of resources here on the Learning Center that you're welcome to use: https://learningcenter.nsta.org/mylibrary/collection.aspx?id=pR1S8giP8DE_E

Hope this helps,


Devon Heldenbrand Devon Heldenbrand 450 Points

Hi Abby,

I am a preservice science teacher as well, but one of the things that stressed me out the most as a student were labs.  This is such a shame!  The opportunity to learn by doing should be one of the most fun and effective ways to engage in science.  However, my confidence was really improved by my ecology instructor, who took the time to have a good recitation prior to every lab.  I knew what we were testing and how we were testing it.  It made it much easier for me to identify errors on my own that could cause my experiment to fail and I became a more autonomous learner. I hope to dedicate time to recitation in my future labs, as I found it was one of the things that helped improve my confidence and the most. 

Bryce Molony Bryce Molony 255 Points

Hi Abby,

    I would say to start having your students do some real world examples of the skills they learned. I know I felt the most accomplishments in my physics and engineering classes in highschool when the teacher had use our knowledge to create something, or conduct a lab. STEM can get stuck on focusing on "getting the right answer" for the math part, instead of realizing as a student that I understand the concept that is going on. Look at the topic that you are covering and then have the students do an activity that lets them be active and social to complete the task. This should allow your students to be able to understand that they are excelling in STEM.

Hope this helps,


Heather Charles Heather Charles 265 Points

Currently I'm teaching math, but I hope to eventually teach science. However, it seems that both disciplines have similar issues. My students are really so awesome, but they are also so terrified to fail publicly, or be wrong in front of their classmates. One time, I was walking around my classroom as the students were completing an activity, and I found one student just staring at his notebook, not doing anything. I asked him what was going on, and he told me point blank that he "didn't want to be wrong." This broke my heart. I'm still trying to figure out how to overcome this thought process. I will definitely follow this thread and hopefully see some more tips on how to teach students that it's ok to fail.

This topic has been on my mind for most of the school year, and I've had some ideas. I haven't had a chance to implement most of them, but if I do have an opportunity I may post an update. 

-On Mondays and Fridays we have slightly longer class periods, and I want to get in the habit of using those extra few minutes to discuss relevant topics related to math. Earlier this semester, I used the time to highlight WOC and POC mathematicians. I could also use this time to talk about the importance of failure in the careers of famous scientists/mathematicians/etc. 

-Get students in the habit of doing test corrections. Make it so routine that they become used to the first try being wrong, and having to analyze and correct it. 

-Have students quiz me on a topic that they're very familiar with/passionate about. Demonstrate that I am not afraid to be wrong and that it's fun to learn about new topics. 

It seems like sometimes we have to take away from instruction time to build our students up. I haven't had time to do this lately, since we keep getting behind, but I need to make it a priority.

If anyone wants to try these tips I would love to hear about the results!

Holly Warner Holly Warner 1190 Points

I am currently a teacher candidate in a fourth grade math and science classroom. I have found that the best way my cooperating teacher encourages students in their STEM education is simply by giving them opportunities to try new things without fear of failing. She gives them many open-ended situations that they must attempt to find solutions for. However, if a students' solution does not quite make sense, she does not scold them or act disappointed, but she instead tells them that this is one solution that they know will not work. She then encourages students to edit their solution, and try again. Honestly, the most important thing is that we as teachers do not make students feel inferior for failing. Instead, we need to show them that these failures provide opportunities for improvement.

George Mehler George Mehler 1360 Points

Hello fellow science teacher,
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