Turning Over a New Leaf: Innovations in Teaching STEM

Teaching younger generations in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, is incredibly important. Getting younger people interested in STEM helps them to have increased earning potential should they obtain a degree in one of the fields. Additionally, it helps to advance society as a whole by educating the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers that will tackle the world’s problems.

While the idea of the importance of teaching STEM is by no means new, advancements in technology and technique have changed the way that we teach STEM in the classroom.

STEM In Unexpected Places

Effectively teaching STEM to students doesn’t have to take place strictly in science, engineering, mathematics, or technology-based classes. The reality is that STEM can be taught in a wide variety of classes, even those subjects that don’t have typical associations with STEM. Everything from English to social studies and even the arts can be used to teach STEM effectively, or at the very least, get students interested in pursuing STEM further.

With social studies, students can learn how STEM has impacted the progress of humanity throughout history, giving them important context that can help them to gain a better appreciation of both STEM and social studies themselves. By incorporating STEM into social studies and general history lessons, students are shown just how vital they are to the advancement of humanity as a whole and can inspire them to engage in them further. 

Even film can be a useful tool in demonstrating the impact of STEM. Watching science fiction movies, while entertaining, can show students the difference between good and bad science and can highlight just how important STEM literacy can be even when simply telling stories. STEM learning doesn’t have to be stuffy or relegated to courses that focus directly on the fields themselves and can instead be incorporated in fun and interesting ways into just about any school subject being taught today.

Inspiring Creativity and Action

Entire generations of scientists of all stripes were inspired by the likes of Carl Sagan, Bill Nye, and David Attenborough. These figures and others like them helped to popularize STEM in the mainstream and fostered the idea in young learners that these fields were something that you could actually go out and interact with. This idea that STEM education is not stodgy and completely book heavy in the way that it can be learned is important because it inspires students to actually go out into the world and put the STEM skills they’ve learned into practice.

When it comes to getting students interested in STEM, inspiring them towards creativity and action is one of the best ways to accomplish that goal. One piece of technology that helps students learn both directly about engineering and express their creativity simultaneously is 3D printing. In classroom settings, 3D printers engage students and teach them about coding and 3D design, potentially opening the door for more in-depth study down the road.

The use of 3D printers in classrooms goes beyond simply inspiring students to get into STEM through creative expression. Teaching students how to properly maintain and clean 3D printers allows them to get a more hands-on look at their ingenious engineering, further giving them a way into learning about STEM through practical methods. 

The Gamification of STEM

One of the most popular new methods of teaching STEM in the classroom is through its gamification. The reason that gamification is so prevalent in teaching STEM is not only that the games teaching these subjects themselves open up an opportunity in and of themselves to teach about coding, AR, and VR, but also because games have the ability to make learning just about anything more fun and engaging than it would be otherwise. Put simply, the gamification of STEM learning not only improves focus and overall learning outcomes but it frames these subjects in a way that has the ability to engage students that might never have taken an interest if it were presented differently.

Games built around learning STEM are effective because they put the student in direct control of their learning, provide incrementally increasing difficulty that can match the skills of the student, and provide instantaneous and ongoing feedback. Additionally, STEM games allow for a healthy level of competition amongst peers or even within the student themselves, creating a sense of community that can be hard to foster through traditional teaching materials.

Learning about STEM through gaming doesn’t even have to employ the use of video games or really any advanced technology whatsoever. Board games can even be effective in teaching kids about STEM and have been shown to boost short and long term memory of a subject when compared to a lecture on the same topic.

STEM learning is an important part of any curriculum and there are plenty of inventive and innovative ways to engage in it. While in the past teaching methods might have inspired a distaste for STEM, the modern world has found ways to incorporate STEM learning into various different classes and has created technology that helps students get interested in learning all they can about STEM. While there is no single right way to teach future generations about the importance of STEM, today there exists a huge array of options to get them interested.

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