Happy New Year! While you might be gearing up to head back into the virtual classroom, there’s still plenty to think about in terms of curriculum decisions, digital classroom organization, and the right STEM teaching tools.
And let’s err on the side of positivity, yeah? Eventually, we’ll be back in the classroom, which means having an already-full box of teaching tools at your disposal. Double that for a STEM classroom, where creative and innovative lesson plans make the world go round.
Like any content area, STEM presents its own challenges. STEM careers have reached the zenith of opportunity, while education still lacks in primary and secondary schools. This isn’t teachers’ faults — it’s just where we’re at. Ask schools how much they have in the bank for extra resources and, 9 times out of 10, you probably have that same amount in your wallet.
Teachers persist. Better yet, they find ways to operate within the confines of their schools and districts. We know that good teaching doesn’t come easy, and good teaching requires a lot of self-reflection and adjustment. To help, we’ve put together a short guide on STEM teaching tools to have ready for action. We’ve divided these tools into curriculum and classroom best practices, STEM kits, and free sources that can help you take your STEM instruction to the next level.
Any strong STEM educational experience starts with an activities-packed, student-driven curriculum. A rockstar STEM curriculum strives to include technology whenever possible and is built upon strong and attainable standards like teaching of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and those of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).
STEM teachers put students’ interests at the forefront of their planning. They live and breathe interdisciplinary studies, collaborating with other teachers to heighten lesson plans and bring multiple perspectives to students’ experiences in their classroom and others.
In short, teaching tools for an effective STEM curriculum boil down to an educator’s own creativity, organization, and understanding of his or her students. Know the young people in front of you, and you’ll be better equipped to provide them with lessons they remember instead of lessons they have trouble absorbing.
And remember — teaching is a malleable profession. In fact, this malleability (coupled with a teacher’s own adaptability), is how classrooms are successful. Give yourself and your curriculum a powerful tool: reflection.
You own your classroom, and a powerful STEM environment hinges on your knowledge, as well as the structure and tools available in your classroom. Project-based learning lesson plans go a long way. Intentional collaboration among students gives them the opportunity to practice real-world problem-solving, exercise their critical thinking skills, and learn how to work with groups of unique and diverse individuals.
It’s no secret that project-based learning takes a lot of front-end work, but it’s basically your adjustable screwdriver. That singular tool that, were it not adjustable, wouldn’t have the same pizzazz. It’d just be a standard screwdriver, just like project-based learning would be a standard project.
Instead, project-based learning takes inquiry to the next level, waving goodbye to projects that take a full week of in-class attention but don’t produce on the learning front.
To help, consider another tool — the flipped classroom model. It can be beneficial for a STEM classroom where the onus of learning is put on students, with the teacher much more of a mentor figure and guide.
It helps to also have a constant supply of materials for students to use, especially when creating things. No worries, a lot of this can be found for relatively cheap. Check out our ultimate STEM supplies list.
STEM kits are fantastic tools for delivering students hands-on experiences. They come ready for any grade level and various skill levels, and allow for students to follow instructions or explore creativity on their own.
If a STEM kit is not feasible for your classroom, why not recommend it as an extension for students? Having these tools in mind can be just as helpful because plenty of students want opportunities to learn outside of the classroom.
Thimble is proud to offer an array of STEM subscription kits sure to keep students engaged and excited about STEM. However, along with other like-minded STEM education companies and organizations, we’ve spent time compiling free resources for educators to use in and outside of the classroom.
Check out a few of our popular posts about easy, elementary school-friendly STEM activities, the best 8th grade science fair projects, and simple machine projects for kids. for 5th grade students or the best 8th grade science fair projects.
STEM Teaching Tools provides informative briefs on issues related to teaching STEM. Khan Academy is a popular not-for-profit with online resources galore; specifically, an online catalogue stockpiled with resources relating to biology, chemistry, physics, and math. Similarly, the National Science Digital Library offers a bevy of STEM resources. NASA has an entire section of its website dedicated to STEM engagement and classroom activities!
It’s a great time to be a STEM teacher. Expect opportunities and resources to keep growing as more and more school districts look for ways to expand their STEM curriculum and foster rich learning experiences for future engineers, scientists, and other STEM professionals-in-the-making.