STEM, the buzz acronym of the millennium in K-12 education. STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) has been seen as anything from high tech, high cost robotics competitions to low tech, low cost maker activities using household items.
There has been much debate on what the true definition of STEM is. STEM could be, but is not always taught as four separate subjects, it is rather a holistic approach to learning and thinking. It is an approach to learning that finally breaks a severely outdated colloquial mold. It transforms students from passive, competitive receptacles to active, collaborative owners of their learning.
In a STEM environment teachers act as sherpas guiding their students through dialogue, research and experimentation. Learning moves from a hierarchical method of only one person distributing all the information to a collaborative, communal approach to real life scenarios.
Take Havard’s Project Zero approach to Makerspace education. Makerspaces have moved away from their original intentions. Makerspaces are so much more then 3D printers. Makerspace education starts with what Project Zero calls thinking routines. Teaching students to slow down and begin to look closely at the systems and objects in their lives that are intersectional and interconnected.
Yes, even students in kindergarten with the right approach to STEM learning can deduce that almost all things on Earth are connected. That careers and subjects are not isolated, but interdependent.
Project Zero emphasizes the importance of slowing down by immersing your students into the content or project. By taking time to reimagine, rethink and redesign. We have been conditioned to rush our students and children through their curriculum objectives to meet government demands. Through that process students must definitely learn to memorize, but they are never provided the opportunity to think or use their newfound knowledge.
Most importantly STEM education teaches students that the majority of systems are designed or affected by humans. Thus, if a human has designed a faulty system whether it is government or transportation, we can redesign it.
STEM education teaches children that everything in this world is designed; we can redesign it to be better.