Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Understanding STEM as an Integrated System

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  This acronym wasn’t simply chosen because it makes it easier and quicker to talk about these subjects.  It wasn’t chosen simply because there seems to be a natural connection between science and plants (including the stems).  It wasn’t chosen so you could add the arts and call it STEAM.  The acronym speaks to what we want to do in STEM education which is to integrate these four areas into a cohesive whole. 
Here are some of the reasons that an integrated approach to STEM education works:
“The number of jobs requiring proficiency in the STEM field is projected to grow almost twice as much as non-STEM occupations between 2008 and 2018.  Computing and engineering represent a majority of these STEM jobs.”  Afterschool Alliance
Integrated STEM education programs apply equal attention to the standards and objectives of two or more of the STEM fields – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

In nearly every model of effective STEM integration, the goal and intent is to provide students with the opportunity to construct new knowledge and problem-solving skills through the process of designing artifacts (Fortus, Krajcikb, Dershimerb, Marx, & Mamlok-Naamand, 2005).

[Learning is accomplished] through a series of open-ended, hands-on activities related to a thematic topic that addresses important concepts related to STEM disciplines (Satchwell & Loepp, 2002).

In the afterschool environment we are well-positioned to implement this integrated approach through project-based learning.  We have been engaging youth in these types of projects for years.  Putting a STEM theme in place in these projects can make all the difference in the world.

For more information about project-based learning check out the Consult 4 Kids website at www.consultfourkids.com and starting with the “Begin The Journey” icon in the upper right-hand corner.  

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