What is STEM Education?

The widely-used educational acronym STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  Originally developed by the National Science Foundation as SMET, STEM education is a teaching philosophy that not only changes classroom dynamics by making it more student-centered, but is rooted in the concepts that students need to be exposed to real life scenarios while teaching them transferable skills like critical thinking, problem solving, and inquiry.

Classrooms engaged in STEM understand that the acronym’s core subjects- science, technology, engineering, and math, are tightly interwoven, as they are in real life.  A visit to a STEM classroom would find students working collaboratively to solve problems.  Students in these classrooms are collecting data, communicating ideas, and working as a team to discover solutions.  While engaged in these real world projects, students are focusing on the higher level thinking skills that help to make them more critical thinkers…and hopefully interesting them in pursuing a STEM-related career.

So how is that different than how I normally teach? (That’s the question that usually comes up at this point.)  It may not be different at all.  A lot of teachers I have worked with are already doing 90% of this.  They just don’t realize that they are.  Part of what STEM education is is based on good old-fashioned best-practice teaching with a little bit of high-interest learning thrown in.  So, STEM education doesn’t add more on your plate.  Simply put, it consolidates it.

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