The world of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning can be daunting for educators who are not specialized in STEM subjects. This article is meant to address educators and school administrators who may not be STEM specialists but are looking to facilitate STEM lessons with their students. With a society that increasingly relies on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for progress and innovation, it is even more pressing for students to improve their STEM literacy. This confidence in STEM starts with quality STEM education. Integration of STEM into a classroom curriculum needs to start as early as elementary school and continue throughout higher education.
Recognizing that it may be difficult for educators to jump into facilitating a STEM curriculum, STEM Sports® aims to provide support and guidance through supplemental curriculum and other strategies to bridge the gap between non-STEM teachers and the ever-evolving world of STEM education. In this article, we will review how non-STEM educators can use resources, curriculum kits, and other tools to facilitate STEM learning and inspire the next generation of STEM professionals!
Recognizing the Common Challenges
Non-STEM teachers often encounter a range of challenges when stepping into the world of STEM education. While these challenges may be a deterrent to teaching STEM subjects, it’s important to remember they are a starting point, not a setback. Below is a list of common hurdles educators face when they first begin implementing STEM lessons. And remember, these are hurdles that can be overcome with the proper guidance and support!
- Curriculum Unfamiliarity: Many non-STEM teachers may find themselves in uncharted territory when teaching STEM subjects. The unfamiliarity of the curriculum and the technical language can be intimidating.
- Anxiety about Answering Student Questions: The fear of not being able to answer student questions, especially those related to complex STEM topics, can be a significant source of anxiety for non-STEM teachers.
- Lack of Confidence in STEM Topics: Confidence plays a crucial role in effective teaching. Non-STEM teachers may struggle with their confidence when faced with STEM subjects, leading to self-doubt.
- Fear of Making Mistakes: Teachers, like all learners, can make mistakes. The fear of making errors in STEM topics can be a hindrance to effective lesson implementation.
- Limited Access to STEM Resources: Access to high-quality STEM resources, including textbooks, materials, and equipment, can be limited, making it a challenge to create engaging lessons.
- Difficulty in Explaining Complex Concepts: Explaining complex STEM concepts to young students in a way they can understand is a significant challenge, especially if there are no real-world connections and applications related to the lesson.
- Struggles with Creating Engaging STEM Lessons: Engaging students in STEM subjects is crucial for effective teaching. Creating fun and educational STEM lessons can be a considerable challenge early on for non-STEM teachers.
- Balancing STEM with Other Subjects: Educators often have busy schedules. It can be difficult to balance all subjects and ensure the classroom has a well-rounded curriculum map.
- Keeping Up with Evolving STEM Technologies: STEM fields are dynamic and ever-evolving. Keeping up with the latest advancements and technologies can be overwhelming and, depending on budgets, impossible.
- Navigating the Diverse Needs of Students: Every student is unique, and teachers must learn to navigate the diverse learning needs, interests, and abilities of their students.
Starting with a Solid Foundation
To effectively address the challenges above, non-STEM teachers should begin with a solid foundation. It is beneficial to understand the fundamental concepts in a STEM lesson before implementing the lesson with students. There are a variety of materials, resources, and training modules available to educators. By better understanding the lesson plan, finding ways to make the lesson hands-on, and connecting it to real-world scenarios, educators can set themselves up for success and increase the chance of student engagement throughout the lesson.
Utilizing Available Resources and Support
Non-STEM teachers should not hesitate to seek support from professional learning communities and online forums. These platforms provide an opportunity for educators to share insights and resources, learn from their peers, and collaborate on effective teaching methods. Building a network of support can significantly enhance their ability to educate students to the best of their abilities. If you are an educator looking to utilize online resources, visit the STEM Sports® resource library to find a variety of guides, tips, and tricks related to STEM learning.
Adopting a Student Mindset
One powerful teaching strategy is for teachers to adopt a learner’s mindset. Demonstrating to students that learning is a lifelong journey can be highly effective. Educators should aim to create an environment where asking questions is encouraged and everyone explores the lesson together. This approach to STEM learning creates a dynamic learning environment where both teachers and students grow together – fostering a sense of curiosity and enthusiasm for STEM subjects.
Implementing Technology to Enhance Learning
Technology plays a crucial role in modern education, and it can be a valuable tool for teachers implementing STEM in the classroom. Here are five technology tools educators can use to facilitate STEM learning:
- Interactive Simulations: These allow students to visualize complex concepts in a simplified manner.
- Online Educational Platforms: Platforms like Khan Academy or other STEM-specific apps can provide additional learning resources.
- Virtual Labs: These provide hands-on experience without the need for physical equipment.
- STEM Apps and Games: Gamified learning can make STEM subjects more engaging and fun.
- Video Conferencing Tools: These enable virtual guest speakers or experts to join the classroom, enhancing the learning experience.
Celebrating Every Success
Both teachers and students need to recognize and celebrate their successes, no matter how small. This positive attitude and mindset around learning can extend beyond the classroom, creating a positive outlook on learning and other areas of life. A positive learning environment boosts confidence, motivation, and overall well-being, creating a conducive atmosphere for learning. By creating a positive STEM experience, educators (even non-STEM specific educators) can create an environment where students can explore their interests and find a passion for STEM subjects.
Continuous Learning and Professional Development
Supporting non-STEM teachers in their STEM teaching journey is crucial for the holistic development of students. By recognizing challenges, building a strong foundation, utilizing available resources, adopting a learner’s mindset, implementing technology, celebrating successes, and committing to continuous learning, non-STEM teachers can effectively teach STEM subjects and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and problem-solvers. STEM education is not confined to specialists; it’s a collaborative effort that thrives on the dedication and enthusiasm of educators from all backgrounds.
If you are a non-STEM specific educator looking for an easy-to-implement supplemental STEM curriculum with your K-8 students, visit the STEM Sports® website and explore the various curricula options available to make STEM fun and engaging for you and your students!