A general belief is that incorporating STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) learning is crucial to help spark students’ interest in STEM-related careers where the demand is steadily increasing. STEM learning boosts vital skills such as critical thinking, perseverance, creativity, and problem solving, skills that are important for navigating life and its challenges.
The first Wednesday of October is National Walk and Bike to School Day! Even if you didn’t walk or bike to school with your students today, don’t worry – I've got you covered. Here are 3 activities you and your students can try today (and beyond):
The drive for integrating more hands-on STEM activities and lessons that tap into and sharpen students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills is high. Educators are trying to find and/or design lessons that students will be motivated by and further their interest in STEM learning. But with limited time and resources, this can also be one of the bigger challenges, and STEM is often limited to what is ‘left over’ after language arts and mathematics has taken the bulk of the focus.
In my humble opinion, physical activity has decreased somewhat in the past 18 months or so. With many students still in remote or hybrid learning environments, they're less likely to be as active as they were when attending school on-site. As most of us know, besides allowing for more physical activity during breaks (run outside for 15 minutes, 5-minute stretches every hour, 60-minute lunch and recreation break sans devices), learning should also incorporate movement. In addition, with the push for increased hands-on STEM integration, students who are learning from home need a viable option for STEM education besides online games and interactive worksheets.
This pandemic isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Schools are working towards creating an environment where students can learn at home by equipping them with the necessary technology to make the “virtual classroom” a reality. Unfortunately, STEM learning doesn’t appear to be a focus and it needs to be.
You may have seen media stories of the air being clearer since stay-at-home directives have been implemented in different areas of the world (Los Angeles, India). NASA satellite data actually shows a 30-percent decrease in air pollution over the northeast United States (click on the link to view slider image: Drop in Air Pollution). What does this all mean for our climate? How are your children and/or students reacting to the changes? Do they realize there are changes at all? This may be an opportune time to include climate change into your instructional plan, especially with the focus of Earth Day 2020 being climate action. So how can you do it? Here are 7 ideas to try:
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.
If the United States is to continue to be a world leader, we need to develop more scientists. Today’s students must be able to solve tough problems, and helping students develop the four Cs—critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity—is more important than ever. By 2018, there will be more than two million open jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) professions; however, only 19 percent of current college degrees are in STEM fields. Even worse, 75 percent of students that do well in science and math decide to not pursue STEM in college. We all need to do a better job of making science and math more stimulating, and help teachers find ways to make the material matter.
Here at Boxlight Mimio, we’re deeply concerned about the shortage of people entering the STEM workforce—I’ve seen statistics that say we’ll need at least one million more STEM professionals over the next decade. Encouraging children to enter these fields is crucial, and we believe that we can help by providing teachers with the tools to incorporate innovative, exciting hand-on STEM projects into the classroom.
In a recent interview with Neil Hughes (The Tech Guy Podcast), we discussed this important topic and what we are doing to support STEM learning.
Enter the Labdisc portable STEM lab.
The Labdisc is a wireless, compact data logger with 15 built-in calibrated sensors and a long battery life—making it a perfect tool to use anywhere, including outside. We designed the Labdisc so that teachers can perform inquiry-based projects in biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science, and geography.
We’re really excited to be working with the Coweta School System in Georgia, where the state’s new science standards are encouraging districts to focus on hands-on, inquiry-based learning. Regina Ahmann, who teaches zoology and AP environmental science at East Coweta High School, is using the Labdisc to study the relationship between temperature and humidity in several locations around her school, including both urban and green spaces. Ahmann told us that she loves that the Labdisc collects data every second. “There’s no possible way my kids could have done that with a thermometer,” she told us. “It’s all recorded and it makes gorgeous graphs. And you can get your big core concept across to students in a real-world framework.”
Real World in the Classroom
Dr. Donald White, Coweta’s science content specialist, has said that his district is using the Labdisc to replicate what students will face in the job market. He hopes that the experiences the product lets students practice will open the door to careers in a variety of science fields.
Boxlight STEM Day—Bringing Science Everywhere
On December 9, our company hosted the first-ever Boxlight STEM Day to encourage students of all socioeconomic levels to consider pursuing STEM careers. We invited five low-income elementary and high schools in Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, Mexico, and Guatemala to join us for a day of inquiry-based learning so they could understand how STEM skills fit into the larger picture.
All of the schools received a free Labdisc portable STEM lab, and students performed simultaneous experiments and shared their data. The schools have continued to participate in joint experiments, and we hope that many of the students will see that a STEM career is within their reach.
Here at Boxlight, we will continue to develop products that make learning meaningful and help children connect the importance and value of learning math and science to the skills they need to change the world.
What are you doing in your classrooms to connect students to STEM careers? We’d love for you to share below. And if you want to listen to my entire conversation with Neil, click this link: https://player.fm/series/80936/171655376
Want to learn more about the Labdisc portable STEM lab? Visit here now.>>
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.