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.  

Click here for a Problem Solving Strategy for students to use (focuses on problem solving in maths).

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 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. They show young people identifying a problem and working to develop a solution:

 

Here are some picture books: 

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

 

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 examples of STEM learning…

Click here for more examples of STEM learning. 

 

STEM Ideas Websites

 

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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