“We can’t have episodic STEM. It can’t be for some students – it is for all students.”
– Dr. Vince Bertram, President and CEO PLTW
How many students have ever uttered the question, “Why do I need to know this?” or “When will I ever use this?” These questions sum up the thoughts of many when it comes to education as a whole. The disconnect between school content, skills, and the real world is great within our education systems. Many, if not most, students don’t connect the content and lessons from the classroom to the world outside their schools.
STEM has been a beacon of hope for many educators and leaders; a pathway to help connect the synapses between classroom content and our students real lives. However, STEM has fallen quite short of that goal thus far. In a Pinterest age where the prevailing thought of something being hands-on equating automatically to being effective instruction; students are still experiencing the disconnect. Yes, hands-on learning is a STEP in the right direction, but we can’t stop there.
STEM Fridays, STEM Challenges, and STEM bulletin boards are fantastic first steps, but they are just that; first steps. If we pull STEM out of our instruction for “special” time, we are just taking the 4 silos approach to STEM we worked hard to evolve and creating one bigger silo; disconnected from everyday standard-driven instruction. STEM needs to happen within context. Phillip Bell states in Designing Learning Environments for Equitable Disciplinary Identification, “learning is a social endeavor and unfolds within context.”
Take the next step in your instructional practice. Instead of doing a Random Act of STEM activity, build a STEM challenge or activity into your everyday instruction. By helping build the connections between STEM learning, standards based content, and the real world, students will stop asking the “Why?” and “When?” questions and start sharing the answers to these questions with everyone.