STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is an integrative, interdisciplinary “hands-on” approach to teaching. Its objective is to teach science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as a cohesive, coherent learning dynamic rooted in real-world experiences and applications.

STEM is, in large part, an attempt to interest more American students in these four disciplines. According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 16 percent of students today are interested in these fields. STEM is an outgrowth of the Obama administration’s 2009 “Educate to Innovate” program aimed at inspiring students and bolstering the number of youths involved in science- and mathematics-oriented academic pursuits. STEM is also aimed at interesting female students and those from ethnicities that have not traditionally expressed interest in science and technology-related fields.

Lesson plans

A well-conceived and engaging lesson plan is essential in captivating young students through applicable and experiential learning activities. A strong example of a STEM lesson plan is one that uses real estate as an opportunity to combine math, science, social studies, English, and home economics. Titled “Real Estate Tycoon,” this lesson plan has students design a house, then use economics and math skills to sell it. Like other STEM lesson plans, it uses a real-life application to help students better understand how different academic disciplines are often involved in real-world solutions.

Furthermore, some of the very best STEM lesson plans show students how scientific principles can directly impact the environment and people’s lives. For example, one STEM-based lesson plan prepared for Fourth grade encourages students to use their knowledge of tornadoes (the science component)—and the damage they can cause—by working in groups to design buildings (the engineering component) that are capable of withstanding and safeguarding inhabitants from the full fury of a tornado. The end result is to be a poster with a photo of the structure each group devised.

Students are expected to use investigative and analytical skills to gather scientific evidence about tornado activity and behavior, then develop safe and economically-sound structures in areas of frequent tornado activity. The results are tested by recreating tornadic weather conditions and assessing their buildings’ ability to hold up using things like enhanced roofing materials, as well as securely anchored foundations and walls.

Getting spacey

The very idea of space is captivating to most people; elementary, middle, and high school students are no exception. Another lesson, referred to as “Get to Know the Space Station,” makes use of such as streaming video, live views from the station, and social media outlets to allow students to learn more about the astronauts and engineers who work on the space station. Thanks to these multimedia learning tools—which are an important aspect of STEM education—students are able to receive a panoramic view of and experience the science station from a classroom setting.

Experiments, photographs, interactions, and activities give students a firsthand understanding of how the space station functions with individuals who span the STEM educational paradigm, lists the accomplishments of scientists who have worked on the station, and presents them with educational opportunities.

Young people experience scientific phenomena all the time, or see and hear about it through the media. This creates a separation in which they’re unable to appreciate how science and technology impact our everyday lives and could hold the key to helping mankind live healthier, safer lives. STEM lessons and learning tools help put young people in direct contact with scientific experience in an attempt to show how mathematics, engineering, and other disciplines can affect how man responds to the challenges and opportunities of weather and space.

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Joyce Wilson

Joyce Wilson

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