STEM learning – education for the future
STEM learning is one of the biggest buzzwords in modern education. But what exactly is it and how does it impact schools?
To start with, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. However, it isn’t just about teaching these subjects. Well, certainly not in the traditional methods. STEM learning is about integrating these areas of education and showing students how they are relevant in the real world.
Think about it, how often did you feel that studying Math in school was a waste of time because you were never going to use Algebra in the real world? Through this method of teaching, children are able to see immediately how what they are learning has real-world applications. This is proven to encourage learning and exploration in young minds.
Where did STEM learning come from?
This style of teaching was originally “intended to increase students’ interest in pursuing higher education and careers in those fields.” Learning these skills in school opens up the playing field. It also allows women and minority groups to feel like they have access to this world.They are more likely to go onto higher education and careers in a related field.
It’s all about preparing students for the new world of work. According to Education Week, “STEM jobs are predicted to grow at a faster rate between 2014 and 2024 than jobs overall”. Without a good grounding in these fields at a school level, kids can’t hope to go on to get relevant university degrees and later on, jobs in one of the related industries.
How do you teach the STEM method
The beauty of STEM learning is that it’s a “blended learning environment”. These subjects are traditionally taught as separate entities, but with STEM, have become one. More than this, they become relevant to the real world. Teachers are asking students to apply scientific methods and mathematical calculations to everyday life.
Classes are often hands-on and project-based. This makes them fun and engaging, while still incredibly educational. Suddenly, Math and Science become more than just numbers and facts in a text book. Children are encouraged to ask questions and not take things at face value. No more learning equations in parrot fashion.
Start them young
Across K-12 districts, STEM learning can start as early as elementary school. At this stage, children are given their first look at problem-based learning that has real-world applications. They are also more likely to be interested in a career in a related field, as they grow and learn through the grades.
If children are comfortable with this style of learning from a young age, it is believed that they will be more comfortable with asking questions, being innovative, experimenting and taking some risks. They’ll also learn the importance of failure and learning from that failure. School is a safe environment where students can experiment and learn from the results – good or bad.
What role does edtech play?
Having the right edtech in your classrooms will allow you to really bring the methodologies of STEM learning alive. Students can use mobile devices to collaborate on assignments, to research real-world examples of what they’re studying, and even talk to experts working in the fields. Other edtech, like VR consoles and 3D printers, will allow you to create interactive experiences that are tactile and as close to real as possible.
Another advantage of technologically enhanced classrooms is the simple fact that you are exposing students to technology. The hardware and software that you incorporate into learning will help your students to become comfortable with tech early on.
But what about creativity?
One of the main criticisms of STEM learning is that it ignores the arts and the more creative subjects in traditional education. However, STEM is more creative than you might think. While it might not focus on the arts, STEM programs still expect students to think outside the box and to innovate. This style of learning actually lends itself to creativity.
“Other skills attained through STEM education include problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, decision making, leadership, entrepreneurship, acceptance of failure and more.” Even if your child doesn’t end up in one of the STEM industries, they can still apply these skills to any occupation.
If you are unsure about whether or not to incorporate STEM learning into your school, there’s an alternative: STEAM. These programs include the arts as an element that is fundamental to the learning for the school.
Keep moving forward
From where we’re sitting, STEM learning seems to be a logical step forward in education. This doesn’t mean that traditional teaching methods aren’t still valid or relevant. You may just find that your school needs to adapt a little to keep up with the ever-changing world.