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What does STEM teaching look like?

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Alison Wright Alison Thalmann 16435 Points

I had a wonderful conversation yesterday in Sacramento at the CSTA Annual Conference with Page Keeley around the origins of STEM, and was inspired by my conversation with Jeff Weld in Baltimore last week at the NSTA Regional Conversation on creating a stem culture and building school-business STEM partnerships. As anyone who knows me and/or has seen my posts, I am a big fan of collaboration and believe strongly that it will take us all for there to be success for all.  We would love to hear your thoughts on what STEM teaching looks like to you, and encourage you to share this link with others to join the conversation and share their best practices. Thank you for all that you do to engage all students in science!

I am a college student studying Elementary Education, specifically Middle School. I love the sciences and fully believe that STEM teaching needs to always be referred to as STEAM teaching. Science, technology, engineering, and math come to life through artistic designs and creative fire! From my classroom experiences and discussions with professors, STEAM teaching is implementation of constructivist methods and strategies. Grading on skill and effort towards meeting objectives; over the "correct" answer, allowing for the final products of projects to be presented differently, and linking subjects through cross-curricular approaches are a few examples of what I believe STEAM teaching truly looks like. Though these examples require more effort from the teacher to grade, organize, and structure, I think it is the best way for students to learn and ignite interest in the future of STEAM programs! How do general education teachers who are in the field view STEAM teaching? What about science or art specific teachers? How are these programs changing how you teach?

Alison Wright Alison Thalmann 16435 Points

For those who follow the NSTA Blog, there was a post written on October 12th, 2017 by Carole Hayward on "Creating a STEM Culture for Teaching and Learning". In it she shares some of Jeff Weld's insights. It, like Jeff's book, is a great read. :) To read the free sample chapter, "Community Buy-in for STEM", please go to the link below and help spread the word about the importance of STEM education.

Jeffrey Weld Jeffrey Weld 35 Points

A common internal voice seems to haunt STEM veterans, STEM pioneers, and STEM neophytes alike, each of us asking ourselves "Is this what STEM is supposed to look like?" The answer can take lots of forms but the common denominator among the STEM educators that I know is a focus on *how* things are learned, not *what*. "I changed my focus from what students needed to know that day/week/semester to how to best prepare them to be global citizens" said my friend Shelly Vanyo, an outstanding STEM teacher at Boone High School in Iowa, quoted on page 17 of Creating a STEM Culture for Teaching and Learning. And as STEM partner Ben Kuker, technology educator at Mt. Vernon High School in Iowa puts it on page 114, "It is so easy to fall in to a pattern of teaching the same information, in the same manner, and anticipating the same results, then all we are asking our students to do is perform at the same level that past classes have reached." What Ben and Shelly and many STEM teachers have in common is a commitment to transdisciplinary, problem-based learning situations that apply what's going on in class to the world beyond school walls, incorporating career information in a shared leadership environment that encourages intellectual risk taking. That's what STEM is supposed to look like, as portrayed on page 82. Welcoming your feedback, examples, extensions, and of course hopes and hazards (topics of chapter 9).

Peggy Ashbrook Margaret Ashbrook 10953 Points

In early childhood education settings STEM learning may not be identified as such. When children are building with blocks and struggling to build a stable tower, they may be noticing the size, shape, and weight of blocks (M), and exploring the concept of balance as they place them (E). Children notice the properties of materials (S) as they use blocks made of wood, plastic foam, styrofoam, and cardboard. When documenting their work, children use traditional technology (T) of crayons and paper or digital technology of photography using cameras or tablets.

We can make sure learning opportunities in math and other areas are not missed during exploration into a science concept by intentionally planning a STEM exploration. If a lesson plan or entire program is labeled 'STEM,' it should clearly identify each area so no part of STEM is omitted. The acronym should illuminate the content, not be a screen that obscures omissions.

I am happy just calling out the learning in science, math, engineering, literacy, art, social studies, computer science, social-emotional and other areas, and the use of technology, without assigning an acronym that may exclude some areas.

One resource for STEM in early learning (birth-to-grade 3) is the Early Childhood Science Interest Forum (ECSIF) of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Members support early S-T-E-M through writing, presenting professional development, posting on our Facebook page and Twitter, and collaborating with others. The NSTA position statement on early childhood science education is a product of such collaboration!
Best wishes,

Paxton Tsika Paxton Tsika 460 Points

Peggy, Your post was very insightful and full of good information! The information in your post is highly beneficial for pre-service teachers such as myself. I will definitely take into consideration your thoughts and ideas of STEM as I move forward and have my own elementary school classroom in the near future. Thanks for sharing! Paxton

Rachael Rice Rachael Rice 3631 Points

Hi Peggy! Thank you so much for your insight! I used to work in a daycare and am currently a pre-service teacher gearing up for student teaching! As someone who will be certified to teach K-12, I am always intrigued to learn about what STEM and other subject areas look like across grade levels. Despite working at the daycare, I never made the connection between their normal play and STEM, so thank you for opening up my eyes to that!

Brenda Velasco Mizenko Brenda Velasco 2695 Points

STEM can vary from teacher to teacher but it needs to be interactive and exciting.i see such a difference in my students when I do an interactive lesson over a boring worksheet or text book lesson. I prefer opportunities for my students to do hands on experiments. I have also incorporated art lessons with some of my science lessons for example we are studying habitats so they created a poster of a specific animal habitat. We don’t have an art teacher so I teach that as well.

Paxton Tsika Paxton Tsika 460 Points

After reading through many discussions regarding STEM in the classroom, I am inspired to implement STEM in my future classroom as well! I am a pre-service teacher living in Houston, TX and will graduate with my Teaching and Learning degree in May. Once I have my own classroom, I plan to implement STEM through engaging, hands-on activities where students can investigate and learn for themselves. Being able to create a risk-free and differentiated learning environment is my primary goal for my future students. Offering hands-on/minds-on exploration will increase student engagement and keep them interested in what they are discovering. STEM truly focuses on this, which is why I believe it is critical to use in any classroom. Other specific ways that I would implement STEM in my classroom include: STEM centers, collaboration between peers to discuss their thinking pertaining to STEM activities, and various "passion projects" to help students compile their STEM investigations. These "passion projects" will also allow art and student creativity into the mix of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEAM). Does anyone else have any ideas or suggestions about how to implement STEM in an elementary school classroom?

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