STEM is more than just a grouping of subject areas. It is a movement to develop the deep mathematical and scientific underpinnings students need to be competitive in the 21st-century workforce.
But this movement goes far beyond preparing students for specific jobs. STEM develops a set of thinking, reasoning, teamwork, investigative, and creative skills that students can use in all areas of their lives. STEM isn’t a standalone class—it’s a way to intentionally incorporate different subjects across an existing curriculum.
Here’s a quick rundown of the STEM acronym:
Science: The study of the natural world.
Technology: One surprise—the STEM definition for technology includes any product made by humans to meet a want or need. (So much for all technology being digital.) A chair is technology; so is a pencil. Any product kids create to solve a problem can be regarded as technology.
Engineering: The design process kids use to solve problems.
Math: The language of numbers, shapes, and quantities that seems so irrelevant to many students.
STEM lessons often seem similar to science lessons and experiments, and in some ways, they are. After all, genuine science experiences are hands-on and inquiry-based. But if you look at the basics of an “ideal” STEM lesson, you’ll see some substantial differences.
- STEM lessons focus on real-world issues and problems.
- STEM lessons are guided by the engineering design process.
- STEM lessons immerse students in hands-on inquiry and open-ended exploration.
- STEM lessons involve students in productive teamwork.
- STEM lessons apply rigorous math and science content your students are learning.
- STEM lessons allow for multiple right answers and reframe failure as a necessary part of learning.