Time to Change the Paradigm of STEM Learning

Aug 18, 2014   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

We’ve struggled for a very long time to find the answer to why students aren’t interested in science and math. The usual response I get from students when I ask them how do they like their science or math class is, “It’s too hard or it’s too boring.” After asking this question thousands of times to students in various grades from primary to high school, I am beginning to understand the problem.

We don’t make STEM learning fun, we don’t make STEM learning exciting, and we don’t make STEM learning engaging. I’ve said for the last ten years that STEM is the new buzz word. You can’t go to any science conference today and not have sessions devoted to STEM. In many cases, the entire conference is a STEM conference. And what do you see there? The same vendors and publishers you saw years ago at the same conferences with, in many cases, the same products and books that have been updated to reflect the current science and technology. Chemistry is chemistry as a class and even I found chemistry not fun when I was in high school. Now I understand why. My chemistry teacher was not only boring but he could care less about engaging us in doing chemistry. You can’t learn chemistry or biology or physics from a textbook yet in many schools that’s just how the students are expected to learn. Read the chapter and answer the questions at the end of the chapter.

How exciting is that? Not at all. It doesn’t matter about the shortage of qualified STEM graduates and that the biggest opportunities for our students in future career fields is in STEM. We lose them before we can really capture and engage them to love STEM. To do this however, we have to change the paradigm of how we teach STEM and quit calling science STEM or technology STEM or mathematics STEM just because these subjects are part of the acronym. You have to take everything, including the engineering component and mash it up into fun learning that still meets the standards and hopefully will increase standardized test results. You also have to capture a child’s imagination and creativity on an individual level one student at a time.

As educators, we too often don’t think to ask students what they want to learn in a STEM class or what projects, research, investigations, coding, game or webdesign, etc. they would like to take on. We have the standards and we have to teach to those benchmarks and we have textbooks with content and lessons, and activities anyway so why would we want to deviate from what we’ve been doing in the past?

Because. This is an answer I used to give my son all the time. Very simple yet very powerful. Here is my list of reasons that would follow:

1. We can’t afford not to.
2. It’s time to flip the classroom and not just with technology.
3. “What If” is the most basic question of human existence and one that has fostered invention and innovation since the dawn of time.
4. Put engineering in or don’t call it STEM. It can be STM or S or T or M but not STEM unless you have engineering lessons and activities in your lessons as well.
5. Don’t follow what everyone else is doing. As a teacher, be your own creative resource and step out of the box.
6. You have to be a lifelong learner and learn the hard stuff to.
7. Play more. My motto has always been, “If I’m not having fun you aren’t either.”
8. Don’t try, do.

As we prepare for another school year, take these words of wisdom into your classroom and be the change that you want to see in your students. Smile, laugh, engage, captivate, motivate, and inspire. Have a great start to your STEM school year.

Leave a comment