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Mar 12 2014

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Demystifying STEM: Using what you already have

Slide1What is S.T.E.M.?

According to the Oxford dictionaries:

Science is the study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

Technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes

Engineering is the branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, machines, and structures.

Mathematics is the abstract science of number, quantity, and space. Mathematics may be studied in its own right (pure mathematics), or as it is applied to other disciplines such as physics and engineering (applied mathematics).

The definition of the four content indicates inter-relatedness especially with science.

It’s not a syllabus

S.T.E.M. is NOT a syllabus but a term used to indicate integration of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics contents in learning activities or experiences.  STEM education efforts seek to increase student curiosity in and engagement with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is a fact that science, math, technology, and engineering interrelate with each other all the time.  It is difficult to teach one without involving one or more of the others. STEM is a popular topic among government and business leaders whose main concern about STEM is the need to educate students so that they will possess the knowledge and skills to compete in a global economy.

STEM activities are not bound to a sequence; science lesson can integrate technology, math and engineering. Technology lesson can integrate science, math and engineering and so on.   For instance, Computer Science (technology) inculcate science, engineering and mathematics concepts by transcending theory and involving students in application and transfer of knowledge and skills to the real world through project based learning.  Teaching mathematical concepts like number sense and measurements using a pedometer, exposes learner’s to technology (using pedometer), engineering (mechanism and design of the pedometer) and biology (calories burned per kilometer walked).  Simple Engineering activities like building a balance scale with K’nex integrate force and motion concepts (science), balancing equations (mathematics) and application of a simple machine-lever to solve a problem (technology).

Observation from 17 years of experience teaching high school mathematics and physics, pre-kindergarten, elementary and middle school science afterschool, and middle school Earth and Physical science and STEM connections have revealed that:

  • Integration of STEM contents can be intentional or accidental, you are already doing it.
  • Integration of STEM contents is best accomplished in project-based learning experiences.
  • Integration of all STEM contents does not have to occur in all activities or experiences.
  • Integration of STEM contents makes learning meaningful. The world is S.T.E.M.
  • Integration of STEM contents is not expensive; running on the spot with a pedometer integrates STEM concepts.

More on how to facilitate learning STEM contents using food, toys, sports and home activities...

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