Monday, June 24, 2013

What STEM is... and What STEM isn't...

Our school began our journey with STEM this past school year, and it has really been one!  We are nowhere near where we strive to be, but we are making forward progress every day (which is a great thing)!  Our district has some support from some outside organizations in developing our STEM program, but they really want us to "find our own way", which can be a little frustrating (OK, maybe a lot frustrating).  We began our STEM process with the understanding of the acronym itself...

S = Science (of course most elementary teachers do not feel comfortable teaching science)
T = Technology (what technology? we are lucky to have four desktops in our rooms)
E = Engineering (what does that even mean?)
M = Math (phew! finally one we know)

I am not kidding when I say this is really where we were in the process!  Most of the staff figured that if we just did one science lab a week, we were covered, right?  Right?  So that is just what we did.  We taught the same ways we had always taught and just sprinkled a little science in where we could fit it.  But, this is not STEM!  We met in cross grade level teams and planned science stuff, we tried to talk about science, and we got more non-fiction books for the classrooms (because as teachers books can just about fix everything).

Then, we went to a STEM professional development day.  Uh oh!  We were not on the right track at all!  Time to back that STEM train up and start over!

STEM is...

STEM is a philosophy of teaching that encourages and supports creativity and innovation in K-12 students.

     STEM schools should provide challenging, student-centered, inquiry-based experiences for students.       Students should integrate skills from different subject areas in order to solve real world problems.

STEM education is designed to prepare students as responsible citizens for success in the real world, college, and work experiences.

     No matter what the career path, STEM teaches students how to problem solve, think creatively, collaborate with others to come up with solutions, and communicate with one another.

STEM education is a direct response to the knowledge that our future needs to be built on technological leadership, innovative thinking, and critical problem solving.

     STEM schools better prepare their students for their role in a global environment where they will be better equipped to compete for jobs, ideas, etc.

STEM education is the key to our future!

     A STEM education unleashes the potential and creativity of our students as well as giving them the skills they need in order to develop revolutionary ways of thinking and problem solving about the world.

STEM is not...   

STEM is not only for students who are academically advanced.

ALL students deserve and will benefit from a STEM based education.  In fact, students who are not successful in a traditional school setting will find success in a STEM program!

STEM is not only for those students and teachers interested in math, science, engineering and technology.

STEM helps all students develop and apply an essential set of skills through a diverse and rigorous curriculum.  These skills can be used in all job fields, not just those specific to science, technology, math, and engineering fields.

STEM is not only for schools rated in the highest categories in their state.

In this age of standardized testing, students in STEM schools will perform better because of the critical thinking skills developed within the STEM program.  Just because a school does not have high (or even passing) state test scores does not mean it cannot benefit tremendously from a STEM program.

STEM is not "one size fits all".

Each school must develop its own STEM program in order to fit the needs of its students.  It is a highly personalized form of education.

Now that we are planning for year two of our STEM implementation, we feel we have a better handle on STEM.  We use backmaps to plan our STEM lessons.  These are a great way to organize your thinking as you develop STEM projects.  We strive to complete at least four STEM projects a quarter and then we integrate the rest of the subjects into the plans.


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  2. Thanks for sharing, nice post!

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