STEM: What is it? Why do it?

Standard

Last summer, I learned about STEM through a few Discovery Education workshops. It was a lot of information, a lot of ideas, and all a bit overwhelming. But when the request went out for STEM Innovators in our district, I jumped at the chance. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to put my learning into practice. And it was! With each additional workshop and one-on-one training session with my STEM coach, I became more comfortable with STEM. I was energized enough to take everything to the next level.

So what is STEM?

To me, STEM education involves learning activities that are rooted in real world problems. The learning activities still address state standards, but also develop students’ 21st century skills, or the 4 C’s: communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration. Students follow the engineering process to ask questions, imagine possibilities, plan solutions, create prototypes, test their ideas, make improvements based on feedback, and finally share their learning. The activities stretch across the curriculum, covering big ideas that go beyond the classroom.

What STEM is to me

Sketchnotes on what STEM is to me.

What about the arts? What about ELA?

Well, an critical component of STEM education are the 4 C’s, two of those being creativity and communication. Creating new things is an integral part of the STEM process. Students design, build, make, and turn their ideas into reality. Communication is also a key part of STEM. That’s why I have no problem integrating STEM into my own ELA classroom. I also like to think of the engineering design process similar to the writing process. Students plan (prewrite), they create (draft), they test and improve (revise and edit), and finally share their work (publish).

Why try it?

For starters, the rewards of STEM were definitely worth any risks! Being a STEM innovator this year has had many positive benefits, but I think the most important impact is that I’ve shifted the learning to my students. They are the ones communicating more, solving problems, working collaboratively, and creating things beyond my expectations. STEM has taught me to take a step back and become a facilitator of student learning. STEM is a perfect umbrella for inquiry learning, problem based learning, constructivist teaching, and cooperative learning. It ties everything together into something meaningful. I think students are more engaged when they see real world connections, more willing to try when they see it’s okay to fail sometimes, and more active participants when they can make their own decisions about their learning within different projects.

recite-f4qyvp

How being a STEM Innovator has benefited me as an educator.

What are your thoughts on STEM?

Think. Create. Repeat.

Standard

Think. Create. Repeat. That pretty much sums up my first five years of teaching.

What do I think about?

Everything. Nothing. It all depends on the day. I brainstorm big ideas and plan projects. I think about how to incorporate district initiatives while designing my daily lessons. I ask questions and I solve problems. And, you know what? I enjoy it. I truly do.

What do I create?

All sorts of classroom resources. Ever since I was little, I’ve loved designing, creating, and building. It makes me feel alive. And happy! There is something highly rewarding about seeing an idea start as a small seed, begin to take root, and then grow and transform into something beautiful.

Repeat. Why in the world would I re-think and re-create?

Well, to test, troubleshoot, and try again helps me become a better teacher. It’s the whole growth mindset thing we’re trying to teach our students. Sure, it’s easy to say to ourselves that a lesson is great as it is. Why fix something that isn’t broken? But I bet if we look closely, we’ll find some small things that can be improved. It may be a challenge to do this consistently, but it’s important to not get too comfortable with the way things are. Changes are constantly coming at us. So why not embrace change?  True growth happens when we venture out of our comfort zones and push past the way we’ve done things previously.  There’s always something more to discover, more to learn, more to try.

So yes, that is me in a nutshell.

I think and I create, but most importantly I repeat. I re-think. I re-create. That is when I truly grow.

My goal with this new blog, is to share my thoughts, my creations, and my reflections with you. Without further ado, welcome to Hannah’s Homeroom.