Thoughts on STEM

Thursday mornings (or evenings if you are in Australia) is a time for the best STEM chat (in my opinion) on Twitter –  #primarySTEMchat. Rachael Lehr (@rachaellehr) a science & digital tech. teacher from Perth, Western Australia is one of the co-host. As a former school leader who transitioned into a district digital learning leader position, I try to keep learning and joining chats/conferences to expand my thinking and learning to support staff in the district.  I was introduced to this chat from an amazing STEM teacher in East Bridgewater Tori Cameron

@STEAMuptheClsrm . She is also the host of a STEAM podcast check it out at

Both the chat and podcast have helped me to expand my own learning. This week I had the opportunity to visit the MA Academy of Math and Science to see some students showcase deigned STEM projects. It was an amazing learning opportunity for me and I was amazed at the thinking, designing, and presenting of solutions to real world problems. Click here for a Anti Slip Writing Tool and Click here for a tool to reduce speed eating.

Today Ben Newsome (@BenNewsome_) from Sydney hosted #primarySTEMchat and some dialog came about around defining and supporting STEM and I wanted to take time to reflect after this when I was engrossed in STEM learning.

As with any learning it starts with defining the learning…. So, What is STEM? STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. In my opinion it is learning that is integrated through an interdisciplinary instructional approach to learning that provides hands-on and relevant learning experiences for students.  I think STEM teaching and learning engages students and prepares them with critical thinking and problem solving skills to transfer knowledge. Additionally, creative and collaborative skills take the student learning and establishes connections between the school and relevant learning opportunities and possible job skills. STEM instruction provides the real world focus we are promoting in our schools – the foundations for success in college and careers.

I have tried to visit schools, our own classrooms, and programs to see this learning in action. I have seen students thrive with STEM activities. Whether it be in successes or failures, STEM activities push kids to expand their learning and accept failure and try again to succeed. One common thread I observed is in the design skills and prototyping projects. These build resilience and true deeper learning

As a district leader and someone who is motivated to create active learning environments, STEM is one area or instructional method that I have seen to build this active learning culture. With this motivation, these are some of the skills I believe we need to continue to infuse to create active learning environments:

  • Prepare our students for successful careers in a 21st century workforce.
  • Students must have the skills to inquire, think, investigate, and innovate.
  • Students need to be better prepared in math and science.Yes, there are other subjects and all with equal importance, however developing the math and science has been an increasing need in today’s world.
  • Develop learning skills such as:
    • Problem-solving
    • Innovative thinking
    • Communications
    • Productive teamwork
    • Generating multiple ideas
    • Decision-making

When developing a student’s life learning skills and not just student rote learning, teachers can use project based learning in all aspects of the curriculum, not just in a STEM class. In an active learning environment, a teacher will set the stage and create an environment where students ask questions, seek out information and find various solutions. Unfortunately, too often students only ask questions when prompted, wait for the teacher to provide the information and everyone works toward the same one solution. The paradigm shift from a typical lesson environment to an active environment is the foundational stage for students to own learning. This is also (IMO) a natural progression to a blended learning environment. These active learning classrooms allow students computational thinking and focuses on the real-world applications of problem solving.

Today, jobs in the real world are interdisciplinary. That is why I think STEM instruction should mimic that and be interdisciplinary. Our jobs as educators is to educate children in how subjects integrate and work together. By developing diverse skills sets and a passion for exploration and growth, students will own their own learning and engagement will increase. We don’t need children to memorize random facts anymore. Especially when we can just say “Hey Siri” to get the answer in seconds and have all the facts. Education is no longer about memorizing facts. Instead it is about learning how to think critically and evaluate information. Our role is to teach students how to apply knowledge, research and develop skills to problem solve. STEM education embraces the 4 C’s identified as key in 21st Century education: Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Communication. Thus, making it an exceptional way of instructing and learning. With STEM we are teaching skills the way they will be used in the workforce, and the real world. Rarely does a job require only one skill set.

STEM has become a buzzword in education. Many people (me included – that is why I keep pushing myself to learn more) have a superficial understanding of STEM learning programs, but few grasp the impact it has on the larger picture of education. My goal as a district leader is to become more knowledgeable and lead the charge to increase the learning style. If my #1 goal is to create and support active learning environments, STEM instruction is at the forefront of active learning and student real life skill development.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out #primarySTEMchat – I highly recommend it. I also recommend visiting school to see STEM in action. This week was awesome and I have an invitation to visit Mrs. Cameron next week to see students final project, and I am taking her up on that. I hope YOU also stay active in your own learning and seek out new information or learning this week and feel free to share with me at @MatthewXJoseph so I keep learning.


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