STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEAM (STEM + A for art) also includes the arts. It is natural for kids to include their artistic creativity when working with STEM resources. For this reason, STEM Activities for Kids uses STEM/STEAM interchangeably.
Why is STEM education important?
STEM careers are essential for the innovation and development of new technologies. An increasing number of jobs rely on tools gained from STEM education. Project-based learning and the creative problem solving fostered in STEM education are essential for addressing real world problems. While STEM careers include obvious professions such as scientists and engineers, they can also include positions such as research analysts, medical technicians, and actuaries. STEM encourages development of critical thinking skills as well as soft skills such as communication, leadership, and working as part of a team.
If you think you don’t have the time or background to incorporate STEM education into your classroom, I encourage you to give it a try anyway. You can even tie a STEM challenge into a history or social studies lesson!
Tips for facilitating STEM challenges
STEM challenges work best when:
- all of the materials are prepared and ready for use.
- students work in small groups or teams (2-3 students).
- design criteria are provided.
- students know at the start of the challenge that they may not get to keep their model/design, and that they will have to help clean up. Offer to take photos if you are able so they can remember what they created and share it with others.
- the challenge is fun. Some frustration is to be expected as your students work through problem solving, and can help build resilience and determination. If the level of frustration is too high, your students will not be engaged or learning. Be sure to pick appropriate challenges for their abilities.
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