Elementary School STEM Science Units

Elementary School STEM Science Units

    Recently, STEM has been talked about greatly in the media. However, it is not wise to let this new educational category fade into the distance in the minds of educators. The National Math and Science Initiative states “out of the 20 fastest growing careers, 15 of them require a background in math or science.” While we might only think topics like engineering could pertain to high schoolers or college students, it is important to allow young kids to explore these subjects as well. Their curiosity for how the world around them works, and the innovative, exciting STEM lesson plans will invigorate elementary schooler’s passion to learn.

 

     It is never too early to start teaching STEM topics in your curriculum. In the 21st century, technology surrounds us, and the job market and world are turning towards STEM based innovations. Even young students are showing more and more interest in STEM fields because they are ubiquitous among everyday life. Looking around your home is proof of this fact; you are reading this article on an invaluable technological tool that required many innovations in science, technology, engineering, and math to develop into what it is today. In the future, these fields will only be more pertinent, so it behooves both teachers and students to add STEM science units into their curriculums. Effective elementary school STEM science units should incorporate multiple branches of STEM to help students understand how interconnected science, technology, engineering, and math are.

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     Teaching STEM is unlike teaching any traditional classes; there is a completely different underlying tone when encouraging kids to explore these topics. STEM curriculums should supersede traditional science classes such as specific biology, chemistry, or physics classes. They should help students understand that the world around them is heavily interconnected, even though it is sometimes useful to think of sciences in the split categorical way they traditionally are. For example, in a life sciences STEM lesson about bees, students could also discuss mathematical patterns in nature relating to honeycombs. Viewing science, engineering, technology, and math in this way will instill a life-long interest in these topics.

     Teachers are used to teaching science and math, but not with a STEM approach. Instead of following strict lab hand-outs, STEM students are encouraged to discover, discuss, and innovate when needed. STEM is all about creativity and problem solving in the real, modern world. If you do not have the opportunity to create a STEM science unit or class, STEM subjects can easily be incorporated into preexisting curriculums during any classes; science, technology, engineering, or math can be related to a myriad of courses students already take such as how different technologies affected different time periods in history class.

     STEM units should focus on active, guided learning rather than lecture or text based learning. Collaboration is encouraged, and there are always multiple ways to reach the end-goal of STEM activities. Students should be given time to reflect on their thinking processes after their activity is done. Being given time to think about what they would do differently if they would start the activity over again will help them think more and more about creative ways to solve problems during following challenges.

     Computer science and robotics are two great ways to get elementary schoolers involved in and excited about STEM. Computer science covers three of the STEM areas: science, technology, and math. If your students have never been introduced to computer science in a classroom setting before, try unplugged, or no computer needed, activities. In this technological revolution, it is never too early to start learning robotics. Robotics projects require active, kinesthetic based learning. Students are able to design, build, and code their own robots in pairs or teams, learning how to work in a group and giving them fast-acting problem solving skills.

     The T in STEM does not just refer to electronic technology. The Oxford Dictionary defines technology as “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry.” This can refer to a wide category of useful equipment, from the graphite in the pencils students use to the SMART board in your classroom. Try to show students how much technology, in the broad meaning, is around them by creating a STEM lesson plan about something unexpected; for example, you could create a lesson plan about technology used in urban planning and design, while also incorporating geometry and mathematics as well.

     Educators should strive to incorporate STEM into their whole curriculum because it teaches valuable skills to live in the 21st century, and it encourages students to interact meaningfully and inquisitively with the world around them, which should be at the heart of all true education. STEM is here to stay. How will you participate?

Derek Capoelementary, STEM