One big obstacle in STEM education is finding good design challenges for students. These challenges should:
Teach or refine at least one STEM concept
STEM concepts could be as broad as learning about force and motion or as specific as “Identify and understand technologies needed to develop solutions to problems or construct answers to complex questions”.
Be inexpensive and contain easy-to-find supplies
STEM lessons don’t need to break the bank to be effective. Lessons should use a variety of different supplies to spark creativity and problem solving and should be inexpensive to procure and easy to find.
Take no more than 90 minutes (2 class periods or one block)
It’s okay to do shorter projects especially if you are just getting used to PBL or STEM. Sometimes when STEM projects carry on too long, students can lose motivation and focus. Start with shorter projects to get your students used to working collaboratively, and using inquiry-based learning strategies. Even if you are comfortable teaching STEM lessons, short projects can be great for learning group dynamics, the beginning of the year, or to refine or review skills.
…And be simple enough to fit in a brown bag!
BUT don’t mistake simple as being ineffective. Teaching simple projects can help you learn a lot about your students and help you to be more comfortable teaching STEM. If you’re already comfortable teaching STEM, then you can use these little projects to get some baseline assessments on students and stretch your facilitation skills and teaching strategies.
Lane specializes in STEM education, curriculum design and professional development and makes teachers’ lives easier through innovative, standards-based STEM lessons.