When I heard for the first time the word STEM education I automatically thought of stem cells, those cells that have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth, but I learned it’s an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – in an interdisciplinary and applied approach, with the sole purpose to teach those four disciplines integrated into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications. Basically, students learn to use those disciplines in day-to-day life and realize how meaningful and useful they are for them. In U.S. STEM education is more used mostly because along the years students lost interest in these disciplines, focusing more on the philosophical approach in life, even President Obama encouraged the study of STEM in schools emphasising its importance. The basic premise of STEM education is solving problems, first by understanding the natural phenomenon and then solving problems. STEM moves beyond simple class performance and focuses on developing higher-level thinking skills by connecting classroom learning to the real world. The main skills that are vital in STEM are:
In schools STEM teaching and learning are mostly focused on science and mathematics, and little attention to technology – the products and system that meets human needs – and engineering – the creative process used to design this things. All these disciplines need to be approached together and common things can be used to show students a better understanding of these hard and inapproachable disciplines. David Zaslev, president & CEO Discovery Communication, said “science technology, engineering and mathematics is the new language, they can inspire kids and they can begin to see the world in a way that would give them a chance to pursue things that they never understood before. Who’s going to be an astronomer or an engineer or a doctor, and give them the basic tools and foundational understanding so that they can make those choices for their path in life, but also have a chance to understand the world better so that they can see the world in a more intelligent and more informed way.”
I recently saw a biology teacher that used STEM teachings to teach about the brain and its functions. The main theme of this lesson was to make a safety helmet for the brain to avoid concussions. The teacher used a daily product that we have in our fridge – an egg, its shape and composition being a perfect representation of the brain: the shell is the skull, the egg yolk is the brain and the white of the egg the fluid that surrounds the brain. The items students were allowed to use were everyday items, the teacher emphasized that students had to use their imagination and she didn’t have to limit it to the items she thought were proper, the teacher wanted them to explore and find new and different ways to represent their ideas. The teacher had given them a list of principles they had to use in order to design their helmet, and those were:
Engaging students in this type of exercise gives the freedom to explore and at the same time learn new interesting and useful things by playing, the idea of using and egg as a substitute for a brain is brilliant not only the students will have a frontal contact but they will also form a connection with it and do their best to make a good model (helmet) for their “brain”.
I work in a technologic high school, where students are in contact with these types of situations, we have students that learn about cars and how they function, and students that learn to become chefs in the near future. I think that if we can combine what they do in classes and humans’ favourite thing in the world- food, they can produce spectacular things. I think if there were to be a “food car race” where students will need to build those cars it will be first challenging and fun at the same time. STEM’s purpose is to engage students to work together and research, decide on what materials to use and taking the right measurements is thrilling, presenting them another way to see their everyday boring classes become reality through their own hands and hard work.
In conclusion, I think we as teacher need to encourage our students to think out of the box and expand their imagination and STEM programme will help us reach our goal.
Stănică Mihaela, Anghel Janina
Colegiul Tehnic „Mihai Bravu București”