The urgency for STEM education has been fueled by a workforce imperative and the need to supply an increasing demand for STEM jobs in the United States. This coupled with the new NGSS brings into focus the need for educators to understand the benefits to this unique pairing. Think of integrated STEM instruction as a road map and the NGSS as the GPS or compass. Both direct you to the same destination, however while one gives a general route, the other provides a more guided approach to finding your way with the option of many alternate routes—whatever suits you as a teacher and, more importantly, the individual needs of your students. The overlap provides teachers with more room for experimentation with lesson plans and curriculum activities, not additional work.
STEM learning is at the forefront of education today—and it shows no signs of slowing down. The focus on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) is a necessity in order for Americans to be competitive in the job market in future years. Careers in these fields will continue to grow, so it's imperative that we make STEM a priority for today's students in order to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow.
IT’S A SNOW DAY! The Weather Channel predicted a big snowstorm and it really happened—you can almost hear the collective screams of joy from students and teachers alike! But after sleeping in, snuggling under your favorite quilt reading a book, and enjoying some hot chocolate, cabin fever is beginning to infect your mind.
Here are some suggestions for fun snow day activities to keep you and your students entertained:
Let’s face it: The top 20 things teachers like to do over winter break might be filled with at least 10 days of a chance to sleep in, but we all know that most teachers are also caregivers, parents to children of all ages, or parents to fur kids—all of which have their own agenda. But teachers are people too, and we need to start a campaign to do something for ourselves to celebrate the time off we have each December.
The top 20 things I plan to do over winter break are:
I guess you would call me a creativity junkie. I like to take science concepts and give them a little twist and tweak to fully engage my high school students. To start the process, I set the stage: Upon entering my classroom, students may walk into a simulated rainforest with vines and leaf canopies draped from the ceiling, or go into a human cell with 3D organelles hanging within the classroom’s cytoplasm. I also use a lot of props when teaching. For example, “DO NOT OPEN” envelopes are hung from the ceiling that are only opened when I request a student to do so. The envelope may contain a bell work question, quote that is relative to the topic at hand to stimulate classroom discussion, or a clue to use their cell phones to locate a QR code within the hallway or classroom that provides further instructions.
Now that school is over, how do you recharge your batteries to face another year after the summer break? After my last student departs from my classroom in May, I set this goal: Update everything in the next five days or less! I get all of my summer print jobs into the print shop, update the syllabi and lesson plans for my classes on each class website for the first 4–6 weeks of August/September, and send out a general message that I will not be checking the school email—my administration knows how to contact me if it’s urgent. I also like to pack what I will need for the first three to five days of school in dated and labeled individual boxes (kind of like opening up a present to myself at the start of the new school year).
We all know that children belong outdoors, but when they become our students, the tendency is to keep them behind four walls tied to electronic devices, PowerPoint lectures, and computers. Well, I am here to tell you that you can go outside with students and see productive results. Moving your class outside engages a world of fresh stimuli for the senses that have the amazing ability to open up students to new insights and real-life application of the concepts they are learning.
Image by Scott Robinson
If you’ve looked into the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), you may have found that there are several standard points indicating that students should learn about models as well as work with them. You have probably already recognized the importance of models since they are an effective way to explain complex phenomena, yet there are a lot of misconceptions as to what a model truly is.
“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” - Aristotle
As teachers, we know our students learn in many different ways: visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, and social. But most of us teach the way we're most comfortable—and that's not necessarily the way our students learn. It's a missed opportunity if we don't use the way that a student learns best to hook them and get them excited about learning.
Our Troubled World Requires a Skilled STEM Workforce
Elements of STEM are integral to our nation’s economy – from health care to infrastructure needs, energy, and the environment. That’s why one of the most important tasks we have as educators is to encourage our students to consider careers in STEM. To get them to that point, they need to develop the ability to question and plan ways through experimentation to find viable solutions.