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“STEM Really Comes To Life” – RE@L’s Jeff Blough On RE@L’s Approach To STEM Education

by | Sep 12, 2021 | RE@L StudentCorner | 0 comments

 

From The Blogmeister: Realexperiencesatlife.com is on the move. We’re not just another company leveraging technology for classroom solutions. We are experienced. We are connected. And our products are teacher and student friendly and classroom tested. But just who are we, and what drives our product development? Part of our team of tried and true leaders in various technology sectors is Jeff Blough who leads RE@L’s marketing team. Here is what he has to say about RE@L’s approach to STEM education:

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Science. Technology. Engineering. Math. STEM. We have heard about and experienced STEM-based education for years. We know it as the federal government’s initiative to help build our future workforce in these important fields. Most curriculum today needs to have a focus on STEM or it doesn’t fit into current lesson plans. Everywhere you turn, there is new curriculum being developed that promotes education in science, technology, engineering and math.

At RE@L, we believe STEM curriculum is more than just classroom or remote learning lessons. We believe STEM goes beyond the traditional approach. It takes more than an educator standing in the front of the classroom, lecturing the class, giving homework assignments that culminate with an exam. Let’s hope those days are in the past.

RE@L’s approach to STEM is completely different. Our STEM Investigations are designed and developed utilizing three key principles that build off each other.

  1. RE@L Learning – innovative, engaging classroom curriculum
  2. RE@L Community – extension to field study and community
  3. RE@L World – introduction and exposure to career opportunities

Let’s look at each of these with further explanation.

RE@L Learning: Just to get into the game, you must come to the table with great, innovative, and engaging classroom curriculum. It’s the ante. This is the foundation of our STEM Investigations. And we feel that the curriculum that we develop is best in class. Why? Instead of the traditional ‘sage on stage’ approach to teaching where the teacher is the focal point, we are passionate about having the student be the center…the ‘star of the show’…the main character. Placing the student as the focus of the lesson or story allows the student to make key decisions that impact the end result. What a great way to learn…to learn from your own decisions, and sometimes mistakes. This is the secret sauce with all RE@L STEM Investigations. For those who remember The Oregon Trail, that was the element that made that curriculum so effective. We are fortunate at RE@L to have Don Rawitsch, the creator of the Oregon Trail, heading our product development and building products based on that product philosophy. In our new release, 1Up On Vaping™, students are placed in real -life situations regarding the temptations and dangers of vaping. They are challenged with making key decisions and learning from those decisions. It is NOT an adult preaching to students not to vape. In addition, there are innovative, engaging games to reinforce curriculum content — all created in a popular graphic novel format. In the end, it’s the students themselves figuring out on their own that vaping is dangerous. And they also learn from sharing with their friends – their peer group. This leads into the next key principle in RE@L STEM investigations.

RE@L Community:  This is the application of classroom/virtual learning material and experiencing how it fits into the “Real World”.  Some STEM curriculum has ‘field work’ built in that is typically called Experiential Learning.  But an important component that we incorporate is to extend classroom work to allow for student-to-student sharing and group discussion. By sharing experiences…the exchange of data and results, students learn. And they learn from each other. How did it work for you? What problems did you encounter? What decisions did you make? What worked for you? What didn’t work? Students sharing with students is a dynamic way for kids to learn. It’s not the adults telling, it’s the students receiving information from very credible sources – their friends. Students learning from other students. In the One Up On Vaping™ Teacher Guide, we provide ideas to teachers of how they can promote this principle. What comes next is the game-changer when it comes to STEM.

RE@L World: Knowing that the ultimate objective of STEM is to help develop our future workforce, RE@L STEM Investigations’ third key principle focuses on exposing students to careers associated with the core curriculum.  This is done in context of Key Principles 1 and 2.  It allows students to have an authentic conversation with all of the potential careers that they have encountered in the RE@L STEM Investigation. In One Up On Vaping™, students are exposed to various careers including biology and chemistry teachers, researchers, scientists and marketing. Teachers are encouraged to link this to career days or having guest speakers come to the classroom (real or virtual) and have the guest interact with the students. By sharing their experiences and path to their career, it gives students an insight on possibly pursuing a particular career. Sometimes, I feel that traditional STEM curriculum only targets careers like doctors, engineers, computer programmers…possible aimed at the top 1-2% of kids. Yes, we do need to pave the path for these.  But there should also be a focus on jobs like teachers who will be helping educate our future workforce. The goal of this principle is both exposure to careers but also to create excitement of the endless possibilities students have in making career choices. We feel ALL students touch STEM.

So, when you say STEM to us at RE@L, it is curriculum that includes these three key principles: RE@L Learning, RE@L Community, RE@L World.

Finally, I encourage you all to experience these principles in action with our latest STEM Investigation, One Up On Vaping™. Whether you use One Up On Vaping™ as a stand-alone anti-vaping curriculum or use it to supplement existing curriculum, you will see firsthand how STEM really comes to life. Click here to check it out or feel free to email us at info@realexperiencesatlife.com.

 

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Thank you, Jeff, for laying the groundwork that drives our RE@Lteam in its RE@LWork to bridge the STEM-to-Careers gap with innovative curriculum and supports for students and teachers alike. Watch this RE@LBlog space for future insights, discussion, and testimonials about these three foundational pillars of RE@L’s work.

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Randy Nelson

Author

Randy Nelson is a retired educator of 38 years. He served students as a high school speech, theater, and English teacher. He served colleagues as a director of curriculum and instruction; and, mostly recently he served the La Crosse, WI school district as its superintendent of schools. He has a strong leadership track record promoting choice and innovation via unique community partnerships. He currently serves RE@L.com as its Director of Education.