Guest Article by Kristin Louis
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (S.T.E.M.) are important parts of a child’s education. Increasingly, teachers are being urged to incorporate these subjects into their curriculum, both directly and indirectly. Although the subject matter is important, teaching S.T.E.M. also helps students develop skills such as critical thinking, decision-making, communication, collaboration, flexibility, and acceptance of failure. These are skills that will benefit them in all areas of life, in school, and beyond it.
What if I don’t feel qualified to teach STEM?
While your preparation to become an educator may not have included STEM coursework, with some effort, you can prepare yourself. If you’re just now earning credentials to teach, you might consider an online degree program in which you can focus on particular areas, such as S.T.E.M. Studying in an online program may enable you to continue teaching while you enhance your credentials. With a degree in education, you’ll learn about student development, good teaching practices, and lesson planning, along with the subject of greatest interest. If you’re considering returning to school, this may be a good option. It’s important to remember that you, the teacher, are modeling not only critical thinking but also persistence, curiosity, decision-making, patience, and communication. These lessons will benefit every child, regardless of what field they choose to pursue.
Ways to incorporate STEM in your classroom
It’s appropriate that your curriculum will devote time to S.T.E.M. subjects. It’s also important to connect S.T.E.M. subjects and methods with the everyday world of the students. For example, the changing seasons, the weather, phones, electronic games, illness, and even the mechanics of basic items like doorknobs can be topics for learning. Most S.T.E.M. concepts are best taught by activity, so a certain amount of controlled chaos is to be expected. Some teachers have a “take-apart” day occasionally, during which students get to disassemble objects or small appliances and put them back together.
The best S.T.E.M. teaching is project-oriented and hands-on, driven by inquiry. It’s a good idea to have students explain the concepts they are learning, particularly in relation to objects around them. This can also help to develop communication skills. Teamwork and collaboration are very valuable lessons and also good ways for students to pursue S.T.E.M. projects. Whenever possible, make the lessons involve concrete objects that can be held and manipulated. For example, letting the student collect and examine rocks, leaves, or insects will teach them far more than looking at diagrams of these things.
How to bring STEM into your homeschooling lessons
S.T.E.M. education offers a unique opportunity to learn about the world around us in a hands-on way that can be applied to real-life situations. For homeschooling families who want to incorporate S.T.E.M. into their humanities studies, there are many resources available online and through homeschooling curricula providers. By using real-world examples and incorporating hands-on activities, homeschoolers can bring these subjects to life while also teaching valuable S.T.E.M. concepts.
For example, if studying ancient civilizations, homeschoolers could learn about how the Egyptians used mathematics and geometry in the construction of the pyramids. Or, if studying early American history, homeschoolers could conduct experiments to see how different variables affect plant growth, just as George Washington Carver did. There are many possibilities for incorporating S.T.E.M. into humanities studies in a way that is educational and fun.
Failure should be embraced
Critical thinking can be developed when the failure of a project occurs. When an experiment doesn’t work, teach the students to analyze their ideas, assumptions, and methods to try to determine what went wrong. Encourage them to collaborate to make changes to their approaches. When reporting on the project, each student should include information on what did not work and how they adjusted their methods and thinking. As the teacher, modeling cheerful curiosity in the face of failure is one of the best lessons you can teach.
The subject matter and thinking skills associated with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are becoming more useful all the time. Most areas of life, whether at work, play, or home, can be navigated more easily with well-developed critical thinking and decision-making skills. Learning to accept and benefit from failures is also quite valuable at all stages of life. For students who decide to pursue further study or careers in S.T.E.M., a solid foundation in elementary school is beneficial and, in fact, in many cases, determines who will continue on this path successfully. As the teacher, you don’t have to know it all. You might decide to earn an online degree to beef up your knowledge. Whether you return to school or not, if you are willing to keep learning and be curious about everything, your students will be off to a great start.
If you’re interested in the arts, culture, books, music, movies, and more, consider following In The Garden City, a Chicago-based blog that also features events at local museums, libraries, and zoos.
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Kristin Louis is a former advertising copyrighter and has two rambunctious boys, 10 and 7 years of age. She created the blog www.ParentingwithKris.com to share her experiences about the trials and tribulations of parenting.
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