Science • Technology • Engineering • Math
It’s easy to lump the STEM fields together. At first glance, they seem to encompass all the left-brain, logical subjects…the ones that tend to equate to the most highly compensated career paths in our economy.
When it comes to teaching STEM, however, we can’t just lump these fields together even though they are interrelated. We need to take a step back and evaluate what each of these subjects are about and why they are relevant into today’s education system and economy to make sure each receives adequate coverage in the classroom.
Here’s a closer look:
Science: a systematic study of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. Science involves methodology.
- A scientist makes hypotheses, conducts experiments and makes conclusions about the properties of light.
Relevance: Science is not just about learning facts; it’s about inquiry. Students need to pose questions, hypothesize and conduct tests. Creativity is required to think thoughtfully about the world around them.
Technology: the application of scientific knowledge. Technology is about turning the theoretical into the practical—particularly through innovation in industry.
- Everything from the age-old candle and wick to today’s solar panels constitute a technological application of light’s scientific properties.
Relevance: Teaching the “T” in STEM is more than using a video projector or iPad in the classroom. It’s about teaching kids to think creatively about how scientific understanding can be applied to benefit humankind.
Engineering: the design and manufacture of complex products; the application of science and mathematics by which the properties of matter and the sources of energy in nature are made useful to people (Merriam-Webster).
- Engineers may study light properties and existing technology to solve the problem of energy efficiency.
- They may build a solution that advances solar panel technology.
Relevance: In our classrooms, engineering is about problem solving. It involves brainstorm, collaboration and design to come up with innovative technological solutions based on scientific and mathematical principles.
Math: the study of numbers, structure and space. Math is essential for furthering the other three STEM fields.
- Scientists may make quantitative measurements of light’s properties.
- Solar panel technology may draw on both numeric measurements and geometric design.
- Engineers may use the mathematics to design solutions and measure results.
Math: While the Common Core Standards cover Math, STEM initiatives are about integrating math with science so it has real-world application. Grade-appropriate math activities can be incorporated into teaching the other STEM fields so students solidify their understanding of their interconnected nature.
Incidentally, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) make it even easier to cover the STEM fields because each STEM component is included in each of the standards.
I’ve included some links to some STEM resources in my resources list to the right.
What about you? What does STEM look like where you teach? Which fields do you think need more attention in our classrooms?