Getting Started with STEM

I have often heard teachers say that they do not know where to start with STEM. I am new to using STEM pedagogy but wanted to share resources and examples that have helped me. Feel free to comment if you have any questions or ideas!

Advice: collaborate with a colleague and ‘have a go’.

STEM Introduction 

 

  1. Develop students’ STEM skills 

Develop skills by: introducing the skill, playing a game or doing a team challenge, and then have students reflect on how they used the skill. Students could also identify skills in characters from picture books or video clips (eg. Toy Story).

Overview of skills: 

  • Critical Thinking: question, analyse, make connections, seek evidence
  • Creative Thinking: brainstorm ideas, imagine a range of possible solutions, think ‘outside the box’, have original ideas
  • Problem Solving: working through the problem solving process: understand the problem, identify important information, visualise the problem, select strategies and persist in trying different solutions, reflect.
  • Collaborative Thinking: share and discuss ideas, take turns, combine ideas, make decisions together.
  • Team Work: be supportive and encouraging, effectively communicate, include all team members, actively participate/contribute

Click here for some examples of team challenges.  

2. STEM in ‘real life’ 

Provide examples of STEM professionals and/or everyday people using STEM to solve problems. This learning supports students to have an understanding of the importance of STEM and the impact it can have on peoples’ lives.

Click here for examples of STEM professionals and technologies.  

 

3.   Find your topic or problem 

I find it good to start with a theme or topic, such as a school garden, toys or biomimicry. Sustainability is a topic which can go in lots of different directions, eg. using sustainable materials in technologies/products, ‘straws no more’, food waste, recycling, e-waste, energy use.

Or start with a stimulus such as a picture book, news article or video. Students can make connections between the problem (problem/need/opportunity) in the book and those they face in their lives. This can then lead to developing an authentic problem for students to solve. When reading a book you might choose to read the whole book, or stop before the problem is solved and use this as a stimulus for students to design their own solutions.

Here are some videos which could be used as a stimulus.

What technologies could you design to help students study?

Do we have any need for an animal deterrent system in Australia? (eg. sharks?)

What technologies could we design to reduce our impact on the environment?

How could we make more efficient and productive gardens?

 

Picture Books 

  • Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty
  • The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
  • The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch by Ronda Armitage

 

News articles 

  • What technologies might we need to explore this new solar system? Discovery of new solar system: Independent News Article ; NASA Article  . Click here for Sphero example STEM unit.
  • Could we design a bridge, that meets the needs of South Road, while being safe? Debris from a footbridge collapse onto South Rd, as a result of failures in the design. The Advertiser News Article
  • What alternative materials could we use to re-design everyday objects/technologies, to be more sustainable? Shoes made out of coffee grounds: Plant Based News article

 

4. STEM IN ACTION: Start planning using the Engineering Design Process 

This Engineering Design Process image is from the following website: www.teachengineering.org/k12engineering/designprocess This website also has ideas for potential STEM/STEAM learning.

engineering process

Example overview: Toy Design

  • Identify the need and constraints: recess and lunch are boring, authentic problem identified by students.
  • Research the problem: research toys, including: using the internet to research popular toys from around the world, survey students, research past and present popular toys. Explore and play with toys.
  • Develop possible solutions: design possible toys
  • Select a promising solution: present ideas to a design group, students need to include at least one idea from each group member (collaborative thinking) in their final design. Develops collaborative thinking and team work.
  • Create a prototype as a group
  • Test, evaluate: Students identify strengths and weakness of their product, peers and/or consumers (eg. Buddy Class) provide positives and constructive feedback.
  • Redesign as needed 

 

5. STEM ENABLING: Plan to develop students’ discipline knowledge 

During Maths, Science, and Technology lessons, develop students’ discipline knowledge so they have the skills and understandings necessary to undertake the STEM tasks. For example, during the Toy Unit in maths students could develop their knowledge of data and graphing, and in science students could learn about forces to develop understandings so their toy can have at least one moving part.

Connections can also be made in other areas of the curriculum, for example: in literacy writing procedures, in history learning about the timeline of technologies and how they have changed (Click here for resources about teaching the history of technologies).

 

Resources: 

STEM Unit Example: Here is a unit for designing a toy, with supporting resources:

Paid subscription to website required for Teach Starter which also has resources, specifically a PowerPoint for Push and Pull Forces.

 

More resources… 

Click here for more examples of STEM learning.

Click here for examples of inspiring STEM professionals and ‘real world’ STEM technologies

 

STEM Ideas Websites

 

Equality in STEM education

  • Be aware of unconscious bias: Dr Carol Newall and colleagues found that teachers used less scientific talk when they were teaching a girl.
  • Have role models close to their age such as successful girls in science at high school, so they can imagine themselves as scientists in the near future.
  • Model a positive attitude towards maths and science
  • Encourage children to join in non-stereotypical activities during preschool and primary school years.
  • Foster self-confidence and self-efficacy for female students, who are typically less confident than their male peers.
  • Effort and appropriate experiences, rather than natural ability, are mainly responsible for success in the STEM disciplines. Therefore, praise effort and reasoning to a greater degree than correct answers.
  • Develop reasoning skills through putting the emphasis on the process, not just product. Encourage female students to make reasoned conjectures about problems, to explore varied approaches to STEM tasks, and to explain and justify their work.
  • Make connections so students see the practical value of the STEM knowledge and skills they learn in school. Click here for ‘real world’ examples. 
  • Set up collaborative groups for success:
    • put in place measures to ensure equal and fair student participation;
    • mixed-gender groups, but avoid placing only one girl in a small group, even if that results in having one or more all-male groups. Monitor and rotate these groups regularly

References: Article: “Girls and boys are taught science differently, new study finds”; STEM: What’s holding females back?  ; “Strategies for Educators to Support Females in STEM”

 

Developing STEM skills…

 

STEM Essential Criteria developed by Dr Julia Atkin, presented at the STEM 500 Primary Educators Training. Part of the DECD Learning Design, Assessment and Moderation Strategy 2017-2020. Provides a guide for what your STEM learning should include. 

STEM criteria

*’STEM in Action’ and ‘STEM Enabling’ are phrases used by Dr Julia Atkin

 

Recommendations for making STEM successful in your school.

  • Coordinated collaboration between stakeholders across the STEM ecosystem.
  • A shared vision, priorities and common language around STEM to develop a collaborative, positive and inclusive STEM culture within and outside of education and industry contexts;
  • Sustainable inclusive education and engagement for all STEM fields, from early childhood through to professional leadership;
  • Curriculum implementation (both in school classrooms and outreach) that empowers students through choice, skill development and allows students to realise real world applications of STEM;
  • Sustained professional development, capacity and engagement of teachers.

See source for full article: https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/articles/stem-learning-international-best-practice; Research Report: Engaging the future of STEM

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