RE@L Blog Serial Repost: "Guide To K-12 STEM Resources For Teachers : Part One - Elementary School Resources"

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RE@L is pleased to bring to our many K12 EdTech Readers a comprehensive guide to STEM resources for teachers, students and parents.

Today’s post comes through the support of the graduate extension of Norwich.edu, and the assistance of writer Amber Harris.

Below is Ms. Harris’ introduction to these powerful STEM education resources for teachers:

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Schools have started implementing more STEM classes for all grade levels in order to get students more interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematical aspects of life. Currently, students are choosing to pursue studies in other areas even though STEM careers are some of the fastest growing.

STEM jobs are growing faster than any other U.S. Sector with a prediction of more than 8 million STEM jobs available in 2018. The U.S. will have a huge shortage of potential candidates for these jobs. Through interactive lesson plans and the integrating of these subjects, teachers can garner students with innovative thinking who are ready to thrive in the competitive global market. 

stemEach phase of education provides students with a particular skill set and benefits through a more focused STEM curriculum. For instance, elementary schools have introductory STEM courses to explore occupations and let them form a natural interest in the subject. Interactive lessons are important at this age to show students the fun side of STEM courses.

In middle school, classes become more challenging. Students have become aware of STEM subjects, their interests and the careers that are available for their future. Through high school, students are studying the applications of STEM subjects. Courses are also available in STEM fields as well as preparations for postgraduate coursework. 

Here are a few STEM resources you can use to get interactive lesson plans and make learning fun.

  • For elementary students, weatherwizkids.com provides a place to learn about all types of weather and natural disasters. There are numerous experiments kids can try like making a rain gauge or a tornado in a bottle.
  • With middle school girls, try using PBS SciGirls for fun videos about all aspects of the STEM field. This is a great way to introduce the possible STEM careers for their future.
  • With Code Academy, high schoolers can use this free interactive resource to learn coding which is in high demand in numerous career fields. 

STEM is an important aspect of education providing students with numerous life skills such as problem solving, collaboration, creativity and innovation. Students who engage in STEM courses will have a bright future and the potential to change the world.”

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RE@L says: This well-written will be useful to teachers everywhere who are exploring STEM instruction for their classrooms. It provides overviews and lists various resources to help teachers develop and use STEM courses throughout K12. Parents and students may find it useful, as well.

Here is the first in a two-part series on the “Guide to K-12 STEM Resources For Teachers.”

=====Part One: Benefits of STEM and Overview of STEM for Elementary Students

“STEM is used in the classroom as the most integrated focus of study in four specific disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Teachers can apply STEM in their teaching programs by focusing on lesson plans that garner innovative thinking techniques among their students, as well as interactive learning activities.

8e9b9312eb92de491b2d87f19dbd7ed9The importance of STEM from early on in education is reflected in the following statistics from the U.S. Department of Education:

  • Only 16 percent of high school students are interested in a STEM career and are skilled in mathematics
  • Just 28 percent of high school freshman state interest in a STEM subject to pursue in higher education
  • Fifty-seven percent of these students are predicted to lose interest by the time they graduate from high school

The U.S. Department of Labor shows that 15 of the 20 fastest growing occupations need advanced science or mathematics knowledge to be a competitive candidate for employment. At the same time, students are choosing to pursue areas of study that are not STEM. In fact, 50 percent fewer students enroll in undergraduate STEM degree programs in computer sciences compared to only five years ago according to the Computing Research Association.

STEM Case Studies

However, the need for jobs in the STEM fields is clear. It is predicted by STEMconnector.org that 8.65 million jobs will exist in 2018. There is a huge shortage in potential candidates for these jobs, about 600,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the breakdown of STEM careers include: 71% Computer; 16% Engineering; 7% Physical Sciences; 4% Life Sciences; and 2% Mathematics.

STEM is heavily relied upon in our society today, as this program of education defines the way our future leaders see the world and work together. It is a paradigm of problem solving that gives students the tools to thrive in a highly competitive global economy.

Benefits of STEM Education

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One element of STEM that is different from traditional teaching of science and math is that it integrates various subjects. Previously, mathematics and science were taught as two separate subjects with technology added in as a subtopic.

However, the STEM movement joins together all three subjects and makes them a core emphasis of education. For more on STEM Benefits click on the graphic to the right.

Life skills that children gain from the learnings of STEM programs are:

   •  Problem-solving - it is dramatically more developed in students who learn STEM thanks to the focus on framing problems as puzzles, allowing students to analyze and form conclusions on their own.

    •  Creativity and innovation – these characteristics are evoked within students who study in STEM programs as their ability to independently work and think are encouraged in their studies. By creating and designing solutions, students learn how to be not only more logical thinkers, but also creative inventors, as well.

     •  Collaborative skillset - these students excel in group settings, participation in Socratic seminar-style classroom environments, and in interpersonal relationships.

images-1Succeeding in elementary school throughout high school and moving on to complete a four-year degree in higher education can automatically place a candidate in the higher end of the salary bracket for a STEM job.

For example: A starting salary for an entry-level employee in a STEM job is 26 percent higher than a job in a non-STEM field. Currently, there is a shortage of STEM graduates and a high demand for opportunities in this field.

Each phase of K12 and higher-education offers particular skills and benefits through teaching curriculum.

young-science-studentSTEM for Elementary Students

STEM education in elementary school includes introductory-level STEM courses, as well as a basic introduction to the STEM fields and occupations that they offer. This is a critical step in a child’s STEM education since it is their first experience with the field.

The goal is to allow students to learn about STEM fields and for them to form natural interest in the subjects, rather than having the subjects forced on them. It is important at this age to provide interactive lessons that show students the fun side of the STEM coursework.

There is the largest gap in STEM teaching in elementary education. Twenty-nine percent of K-5 teachers report that they teach science on two or less days a week according to the State Technology Educators Association.

slider-stemlessonplansPopular Lesson Plans for Elementary School Teachers [Click on Graphic to the right]. More lesson plan ideas are listed below:

  • Moon Basketball vs. Earth Basketball: This lesson is an engaging way to show the gravitational pull on mass. The gravity of the moon that causes ocean tides, Newton’s Second Law, forward motion, and more are shown in the differences between moon and Earth basketball.
  • All About Codes: This lesson teaches students how alphanumeric symbols can be encoded for communication purposes. Children make up their own codes with a set number of symbols, and attempt to break each other’s codes and decipher the relationship among encryption and shared keys.
  • Funology: Perfect for parents to inspire their kids with interactive STEM activities. Activities range from crafts and recipes to trivia and games.
  • Kids do Ecology: This lesson provides students the opportunity to learn about ecology through classroom projects and data science. There is a Spanish alternative as well.
  • Weather Wiz Kids: This online curriculum is designed to teach students the world of weather. It breaks out the various categories for all kinds of weather and describes experiments that students can try at home.

Earth Day and Young STEM Students

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Click this graphic for more information.

A great opportunity to engage young learners in STEM is Earth Day. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Earth Day as a classroom while educating your students on earth science and the importance of caring for the environment around them. Environmental science and engineering are two core focuses of an Earth Day activity, such as this lesson plan that educates on waste.

Students learn how decaying organic matter can be reused and turned into a source of energy. They can brainstorm ways that old materials, such as metal and plastic, can be used again as a resource. Explain how large amounts of waste can be converted into energy in a controlled environment, such as a landfill which can create enough methane gas that can be used for energy

The key is that food decay leads to gas, which ultimately leads to energy that fuels the world we live in. “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Recover” is a great message to demonstrate to students on Earth Day.”

You can end your lesson by mentioning the process of composting as an additional way to recover and reuse resources while also being mindful of the environment. This is an educational, eco-friendly way to show your students STEM subject matter can be interesting and applicable to their lives.”

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End of Part One

Part Two on Middle School-High School STEM, plus some additional great STEM teaching tips, will follow in our next RE@L Blog.

Stay tuned!

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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.