STEM education has grown in popularity in recent years and is a great way to get students interested in STEM careers later in life. With science, engineering, and technology advancing at an ever-increasing rate, the need for STEM careers now and in the future will be in high demand. There will be a point in the near future in which every career requires a level of STEM experience or skills.
Traditionally, STEM education has involved students working closely together and collaborating in small groups. In most settings, this typically involves the sharing of materials used for STEM exploration. While this is how it’s traditionally done, I can assure you it’s not the only effective way to integrate STEM instruction.
Many educators are now asking themselves how they’ll be able to keep their students, teachers, and parents safe, while also keeping students engaged with STEM during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Before I share some tips for implementing STEM safely into your classroom or home, I want to take moment to remind everyone of the benefits of STEM instruction. While STEM has been a “trendy” topic, the benefits are anything but.
Why Teach STEM?
- STEM Fosters Ingenuity and Creativity
Ingenuity and creativity can pair with STEM and lead to new ideas and innovations. Artificial Intelligence technologies were created by people who learned that if the human mind can conceive it, the human mind can achieve it.
- STEM Builds Confidence and Resilience
STEM education stresses the value of failure as a learning exercise, which enables students to embrace mistakes as part of the learning process. By focusing more on the process of design and engineering, students build confidence which enables them to succeed. STEM instruction teaches students to “dust yourself off and try again”.
- STEM Encourages Experimentation
Without a little risk-taking and experimentation, many of the technological advancements that have occurred in the last couple of decades would not be possible. STEM fosters a “let’s try it and see” approach with the Engineering Design Process, and students thrive with this approach.
- STEM Encourages Teamwork
Students of varying levels of ability can work together in teams to find solutions to problems, record data, write reports, give presentations, etc. The end result is to teach students how to collaborate, communicate, and interact with their peers in a positive manner, a skill they can use their entire lives.
- STEM Encourages Adaptation
STEM education teaches students to adapt the concepts that they learn to various iterations of a problem or issue.
- STEM Strengthens Problem-Solving and Critical-Thinking Skills
In a process that has no “right answer” students learn to think like a problem solver and to work through the process of engineering in a constructive way. They innovate, they think outside the box, they test theories, and they adapt and try again.
So now that we know how beneficial STEM is, let’s go back to the question posed at the beginning. How can you keep everyone safe while keeping students engaged in STEM?
- Prevent the sharing of common STEM materials with these new STEM Bins® Learn & Play Pack. Developed by Brooke Brown, these preassembled kits encourage individualized hands-on maker exploration!
- Divide the classroom and follow a rotating STEM block with 1/2 of students building or creating hands-on and the other half planning or reflecting.
- Instead of sharing safety googles, ensure that students have their own individual googles.
- Create several individual STEM stations or bins with 3–4 different shared projects, but separate materials for each student. Fill each bin with the materials, instructions, and steps for completing the project. Pass these out so small student groups can brainstorm and tackle the build together, but with each student using their own set.
- Have students create individually but collaborate, problem solve, redesign, plan, and evaluate in groups via remote channels.
STEM Projects for Home or Remote Learning
- Make your own hand sanitizer spray with the exact recipe based on the World Health Organization (WHO). This video has step-by-step instructions for students and their parents to create DIY hand sanitizer. There’s an explanation of the science behind the activity.
- These fun STEM At Play kits bring science concepts to life through hands-on activities that spark interest, inspire confidence, and prompt creative critical-thinking skills while fostering collaboration between children and their siblings or parents. All materials and instructions are included to support academic goals at home. These kits are all STEM.org Authenticated ™ educational products.
- Looking for makerspace ideas to give your young inventors fun, open-ended design ideas that can be built with common household items? Check out these printable STEM activities!
- Children of all ages love building with K’NEX! With Moving Creations with K’NEX®,your children can learn to apply STEM principles just like a real engineer. This kit comes with a 98-page, step-by-step illustrated guide that contains 9 different builds, educational science content, and 18 STEM experiments/“Think Bigger” challenges.
STEM education is so important for our students. The skills they learn with STEM are skills they can apply to any other aspect of life. It’s in times like these that these skills become even more important than ever before, not less important. We hope these ideas will help you keep your students engaged as we navigate our way through this global pandemic.
Jason Rachlin has been supporting school districts with hands-on learning for 9 years, coming up on 5 years now with hand2mind. He has a passion for helping customers find solutions that will inspire and engage their students and empower their teachers. He takes a very customer service centric approach to sales. In his free time he enjoys mountain biking, doing DIY home remodeling projects, and watching sports.