So you want to start using STEM in your classroom, but aren't really sure how to do it?....
I wish I had the magic wand for you to wave to make that happen, but the truth is that this is a journey/marathon you are going to be on. You will learn and grow just as much as your students will.
With that said, let me share my journey...
The first year we completed challenges maybe 4 times (one a grading period).
The first year we relied heavily on already published challenges.
The first year the challenges did not completely align to our curriculum/standards.
The first year.....wasn't pretty
Fast forward 2 years....
EVERY Wednesday is STrEaM Wednesday. The entire day is dedicated to the STEM process.
STREAM lessons may be based on similar activities out there (there truly are only so many engineering things you can do with elementary students), but for the most part they are 100% created by us.
STREAM lessons are now tightly aligned to our curriculum/standards
It still can be messy, but in a beautiful way.
Things to Consider:
I see several people posting about STEM activity boxes. That may be the route you want to take to begin (especially if this is not a school-wide push/implementation), but we consider that more of a Maker's Space/Tinker Spot at our school.
STEM is NOT a science experiment.
Your science standards are built into the lesson. You may have a small science experiment within the challenge that relates to the topic, but it's not just a science experiment.
Don't go on this journey alone.
If you are truly committing to the STEM process and creating plans that fully align, you're going to need a friend and some help. It takes time and commitment. There may be some tears and there may be days you want to pull your hair out and scream. Make sure you have someone on your side so you can cheer each other on and share ideas.
Take time to create a team.
This is a completely new way of thinking and acting in a classroom for students. They are having to collaborate and communicate- two skills that are new (or lacking) for our children. Taking time (like a month or two) to do 'fun' challenges that build team and help them understand will be well worth it in the long run. When we first started STEM we didn't take the time to do this and we paid for it. It made challenges painful because students didn't know how to work together and not argue. I spent more time being a referee than I care to admit. Now that my school has been doing this for 3 years, the students are more used to this structure of learning, but we still have to take the time every year to build the new team and remind them of their roles.
A STEM lesson doesn't always fit neatly into a given amount of time (Your teachers, you know sometimes things take a little longer than planned). Curiosity and creating takes longer than you think. Don't stress yourself and your students out by strictly sticking to a time frame.
When creating a lesson keep 2 things in mind:
Is there a problem/challenge?
Are they building/creating something?
I could go on forever, but I think I might have lost my 3 followers a long time ago.
If there is something specific you have a question about or I haven't covered, please leave it in the comments (Really, it's okay to comment....I would love to know someone is actually reading this ;) ). I will answer them in my next post.
teach. create. love life.