STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—is important for learners of all ages! But how can you get your students to love STEM, especially if it’s not something they’re used to studying?
By incorporating it naturally into your curriculum, facilitating hands-on projects, and making investigative learning the norm!
Here are some specific ways to get your students to love STEM, regardless of their age or grade level:
1. Go on Field Trips
One of the first and most effective ways to get your students to love STEM is to plan field trips regularly! Oftentimes, just the promise of spending time outside of the classroom is enough to get many students excited, and you can harness this enthusiasm to encourage interest in a range of STEM subjects.
Some of the best options for STEM field trips are science museums, especially the ones that have interactive exhibits that involve the children in the learning process. You don’t have to limit your options to only science museums, though! There are transportation hubs, energy facilities, manufacturing plants, etc. and they all provide excellent opportunities for your students to see STEM in action.
Just remember to contact the facility/location ahead of time! This will help you determine best times/days, schedule, access, and supplementary resources you may need to create (guides, worksheets, or lesson plans).
2. Create + Host Debates
Debates and discussions are a wonderful way to introduce STEM concepts to kids! In debates, students are encouraged to think critically about topics and the impact of those topics on society and their own lives.
Before jumping into debates, be sure to teach your students about different topics (and different viewpoints on the topics, too). Expect debates to get heated at times, especially depending on the content area and the relation to the students’ lives. With this in mind, be sure to create and explain clear debate rules, and be mindful of any safeguarding issues that may arise, especially when debating hot, sensitive, or controversial topics.
3. Discuss + Learn About Esteemed STEM Researchers/Achievers
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Another wonderful way to spark interest in STEM subjects is to organize work and learning around famous people in STEM. Even something as simple as a short book/research report on trailblazers like Elon Musk, Sally Ride, or Jane Goodall can help to demonstrate the success that STEM subjects can lead to!
An effective way of doing this is to split your class into teams and have each group focus on a single person. Ask the students to find information about their person’s early life and achievements to make their research more relevant. You can also challenge your students by asking them to think about their lives without the developments that their STEM leader was responsible for. This is an excellent way to stretch their critical thinking skills!
4. Invest In STEM Products + Toys
Toys are also a great way of encouraging STEM learning in any classroom—not only for younger children, but for learners of all ages! The good news is there are plenty of toys that are specifically designed to introduce and develop STEM skills. Basic options include building blocks, Legos, and mechanic kits. Even paper straws and tape can be used as a low-cost option, too!
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Then there are the more expensive, but very impressive options like Sphero which is a robot that allows students to learn to code. LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Robot is another strong choice! Although it’s expensive, it allows students to code easily with the use of the associated app, and quickly expand their engineering and coding skills in tandem.
5. Embrace Outside Learning Programs
Sometimes outside specialist providers and organizations are best positioned to offer a STEM experience that classroom teachers simply don’t have the resources to provide.
A great example of this is the amazing Junior Space Entrepreneur Program (JSEP) and Cadet Space Explorer Program run by The Discovery Center, which is part of the Space Foundation. You can visit their site at https://cie.spacefoundation.org/ to get the full low down on what the program entails.
One of their draws is student-led simulation trips to Mars and opportunities for learners to use their creativity and STEM knowledge to solve the issues along the way.
6. Use The Power of The Internet
A STEM topic in its own right, the internet also offers a wealth of useful resources that can help to engage your students! On a small scale, YouTube videos and worksheets are a great way to introduce a STEM topic dynamically. However, on a larger scale, you may wish to offer online courses from specialists, institutions or quality providers so that your students can engage with a level of expertise and depth otherwise inaccessible in the classroom.
7. Get Your Students to Join the Maker Movement
One of the smartest ways to get your students to love STEM is to encourage them to become a part of the Maker Movement. The Maker Movement describes all those independent thinkers, designers and makers that are involved in making their own STEM creations.
The best thing about the Maker Movement is that it involves lots of people of all ages that already have a real passion for STEM, and are only too happy to help others along the way! Look out for local Makers Fairs where you can encourage students to check out other people’s designs, ask questions, and show off their own creations!
8. Make STEM into STEAM
Lastly, a fantastic way to encourage a love of STEM for all students (even those that don’t traditionally connect with this subject area) is to add an artistic element! This converts STEM into STEAM and it can be a great way of making STEM topics much more palatable for students that favor creativity.
In particular, encouraging students to create film and broadcasting opportunities such as podcasts or short movies on STEM topics can be effective. This is because it requires that they research and understand these topics to a high level in order to create the best art project possible.
For other ways to engage your students, check out our Discussion Board!