Updated: Nov 14, 2020
How do we integrate STEM activities without straying away from our curriculum?
Why? Before we discuss how to blend standards together, we need to first reflect on why we should integrate STEM in the first place. STEM learning activities can help activate engagement and cross-curricular learning opportunities.
If we can trick our students into learning through hands-on learning to inspire excitement and engagement this is a win. When there is a strong, positive emotional memory tied to an experience, they will remember the experience and content longer.
Integrating multiple subjects and skills into a lesson is usually considered masterful teaching. This process can be simplified when taking a different approach and looking through a different lens. When educators prompt students to apply skills in different situations they are using higher-level thinking skills. Blending Standards: We so commonly see students doing STEM activities as extensions or summative projects. I am not discrediting these activities or dismissing any teacher who utilizes them. They serve as a good building block to the next level of integration. However, they lack the cross-curricular learning; I am offering an opportunity to take it 10 steps further with a slightly different approach. We can utilize these hands-on activities during the learning process, and we can put the curriculum standards first with STEM in the background. Lesson Examples: The examples outlined both incorporate engineering skills. These examples are outlined because it doesn’t require the use of new web-based programs or expensive products.
This activity comparison paints a clear picture of
how a slight modification of a very common activity completely changes the outcomes. The teacher no longer has to find the time to “get to” the fun activity. The fun activity is a learning activity. This can replace the retelling worksheet and engage students in much higher-level thinking.
The next example is for a secondary history and/or math class, although it could be modified for younger students. This cross-curricular activity is focused on standards from both subjects.
A great way to close this lesson is for students to present the structure and justify how and why they built it the way they did. Conclusion: Integrating hands-on learning experiences doesn’t have to be separated from the curriculum. It can be integrated directly into the learning. It is okay to replace worksheets and traditional learning activities with these experiences. The students will understand and remember the important information more effectively. They will be excited to come to your classroom. They will be engaged in the content. All of these activities could simply include a personal reflection from each student. It could be written, recorded in Flipgrid, or shared with orally. This would help teachers have data and a gauge of student success.