STEM is more than just math, science, engineering and technology. It is a movement to develop the deep mathematical and scientific backgrounds students need to be competitive in the 21st-century workforce.
STEM develops a set of reasoning, thinking, investigative, teamwork, and creative skills that students can utilize in any area of their lives. STEM shouldn’t be a standalone class. It’s a way to intentionally incorporate different subjects across an existing curriculum.
PLTW Engineering courses basically does the STEM planning for you, however, how you implement these strategies is important!
Here are some basic guidelines for creating ANY STEM lesson:
1. STEM lessons focus on real-world issues and problems. In STEM lessons, students address real social, economic, and environmental problems and seek solutions. In the PLTW Principles of Engineering course students are carefully moved from concept to application to problem-solving using the engineering design process.
2. STEM lessons are guided by the Engineering Design Process. The EDP provides a flexible process that takes students from identifying a problem—or a design challenge—to creating and developing a solution. In this process, students define problems, conduct background research, develop multiple ideas for solutions, develop and create a prototype, and then test, evaluate, and redesign them. In the PLTW pre-engineering classes this process is integral to everything we do.
3. STEM lessons immerse students in hands-on inquiry and open-ended exploration. In STEM lessons, the path to learning is open ended, within constraints. (Constraints generally involve things like available materials.) The students’ work is hands-on and collaborative, and decisions about solutions are student-generated. Students communicate to share ideas and redesign their prototypes as needed. They control their own ideas and design their own investigations. I love listening to my classes as they problem-solve together.
4. STEM lessons involve students in productive teamwork. Helping students work together as a productive team is never an easy job. It is such a natural part of the PLTW classroom that this is a no brainer. Students will not be in the workforce working as individuals. They will work in the collaborative teams which makes PLTW course a great preparation for the workplace.
5. STEM lessons apply rigorous math and science content your students are learning. In your STEM lessons, you should purposely connect and integrate content from math and science courses. PLTW course do this for you. There are never question like “Why do we need to know how to do this.”
6. STEM lessons allow for multiple right answers and reframe failure as a necessary part of learning. Often times science labs are in a recipe format so that all teams would replicate the same results or verify or refute a hypothesis. Students were studying specific science content and the whole idea was to provide insight into cause and effect by manipulating variables. A STEM lesson allows for multiple pathways and multiple discoveries. I love that I can outline basic constraints and allow students to head in whatever direction they like.
The awesome thing about teaching PLTW courses is that this planning is already done for you!