Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is very important because it can be seen in every part of our lives. Science is everywhere in the world around us. Technology is always expanding into every part of our lives. Engineering is the basic designs of roads and bridges but also tackles the challenges of changing the global weather and environmentally-friendly changes to our home. Mathematics is in every career, every activity we do in our lives.
Very few STEM initiatives focus explicitly on the need for better elementary-level teaching in math and science, yet it is these early grades that lay the critical foundation for future student learning (EPSTEIN, & MILLER, 2011). With STEM, students engage in real-world problem-solving and design tangible solutions, creating a purpose and motivation to learn.The United States is falling behind in STEM education. According to the article “Successful STEM Education: A Workshop Summary,” the United States ranks 6th among developed nations in innovation-based effectiveness, 11th in percentage of young adults who have graduated from high school, 15th in science literacy and 28th in mathematics literacy among top students (“Successful STEM Education”, 2011).
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Some people think that the United States as being first in everything, but this is not the case when it comes to education. Education, especially in STEM, might be declining because teachers try to teach the S and the M of STEM, but math is abstract for most and science often seems disconnected from reality. They are leaving out the T and E and need to do better with teaching these concepts. As teachers, we need to a do a better job of inspiring students to improve their desire for discovery and help to encourage minorities and girls to get involved in STEM. Applying STEM topics in the elementary grades has always been a big question of how. STEM is all around us and is very important because it encompasses every part of our lives.
Science can be seen everywhere in the world, technology is always growing into every part of our daily lives, engineering is the basic designs of everything that is built or constructed around us, and mathematics is used in every career and activity that we do in our daily lives. A curriculum that is STEM-based has real-life situations to help the student learn. STEM activities provide hands-on and minds-on lessons for the student. Making math and science both fun and interesting helps the student to do much more than just learn. Literacy in STEM subjects is important both for the personal well-being of each citizen and for the nation’s competitiveness in the global economy.
“The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce had estimated that in 2018, just 24 percent of the STEM-related jobs are going to require a graduate degree, 44 percent will require a bachelor’s degree, and 20 percent will require either an associate’s degree or a certificate for some other post-secondary program” (“Successful STEM Education,” 2011).What students learn about STEM during their K-12 schooling shapes their intellectual development, opportunities for future study and work, and choices of career, as well as their capacity to make informed decisions about political and civic issues and about their own lives (“Successful STEM Education,” 2011). STEM-focused education opens students to new subjects, it also allows for different learning methods to be developed. By exposing students to STEM and giving them opportunities to explore STEM-related concepts, they can develop a passion for it and hopefully pursue a job in some type of STEM field. As a teacher teaching STEM allows for the opportunity to give students room to explore, experiment and solve problems reasonably. Teachers can encourage critical thinking through problem-solving in elementary STEM education to provide students with an educational advantage over the competition.
STEM blends nicely with young children’s natural learning progressions, including asking questions, testing ideas, working together, and exercising curiosity and creativity through play (Carroll & Scott, 2017).The goal for a certificate in STEM is to increase the competence and confidence of elementary education majors’ knowledge of STEM disciplines and to model innovative, content-driven pedagogies with a relevant hands-on inquiry or project-based experiences in rigorous STEM courses (Murphy & Mancini-Samuelson, 2012). An important characteristic of STEM literacy is the ability to convey STEM concepts.
STEM benefits students and teachers in many ways. Applying STEM knowledge to students and their learning focuses is key in understanding how one can teach STEM in the classroom. But there is absence of the program for licensure and training of teachers in areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, which is called the STEM initiative.When creating STEM kits for a classroom, teachers need to think about how they can include direct instruction to help students develop their ideas. Teachers should look at what time of year the kit would be introduced to students. According to Carroll, “Early in the year, students need more structure and guidance as they begin to use materials and learn classroom procedures and activities. Later in the year, younger students can handle additional responsibilities in one take such as drawing, labeling, and creating” (Carroll & Scott, 2017). This makes it show that kits that have multiple tasks should be done when the students are further settled and comfortable in the classroom with instruction.
Engaging students in STEM means that teachers are engaging learners in the design process as well. Design is essential to student thinking within the STEM world and the design process is very non-linear and interactive in its nature. Design does require a person to clearly express and identify the design problem, research what is known about the problem, generate potential solutions, develop prototype artifacts that demonstrate solutions, and share and receive feedback about the design created. With the integration of design, STEM education has the potential to support students in learning big ideas in science and engineering, as well as important scientific and engineering practices, and support students in developing important motivational outcomes such as ownership, agency, and efficacy. Students who engage in STEM learning environments will develop 21st century capabilities such as problem solving, communication, and collaboration skills.Some schools are working towards science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM). With STEAM, the arts are incorporated into the curriculum as well.
STEAM takes STEM to the next level by allowing students to connect their learning in these critical areas together with arts practices, elements, design principles, and standards to provide the whole pallet of learning at their disposal. STEAM removes limitations and replaces them with wonder, critique, inquiry, and innovation. To move from STEM to STEAM schools must consider a variety of factors such as collaborative planning, adjusting their scheduling to accommodate a new way of teaching and learning, having professional development for all their staff in STEAM practices and principles, the STEAM schema-mapping for the curriculum and assessment design process, how STEAM aligns with standards and assessment, and having a seamless lesson implementation of processes and strategiesUsing STEM in the classroom can be easy with the right tools and knowledge. “Students would be more likely to want to come to school if science class looked anything like this” (41 Carroll & Scott, 2017). Preservice teachers who were unsure about teaching STEM in their classrooms. The teachers were gathered together in class for a Professional Development day and were then put into groups based on the grade level they were teaching. Most of the teachers in the Professional Development could define STEM, but they could not define what STEM looked like in a classroom setting.
The teachers were then shown and required to make STEM kits. The teachers all had to consider ways they could make and what needed to be incorporated into their STEM kits. STEM kits can be used throughout the year with students and can be used at any grade level for students to grasp a better concept with STEM. STEM could help educators grow and improve their abilities to make collaborative connections.
A candidate from the STEM kit program said it true when they state, “STEM should be the primary focus of the classroom because it connects all content to problems in the real world” (41 Carroll & Scott, 2017). STEM connects students to the real world and helps them to see and learn about what is going on around them and what they can do. Strengthening the selection, preparation, and licensure of elementary school teachers in math and science is critically important if we are to improve students’ achievement in STEM fields and generate well-trained STEM professionals (EPSTEIN & MILLER, 2011).