Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are fundamental aspects of elementary education. By introducing STEM in early education, students create a strong foundation in these subjects, giving them the confidence to continue STEM throughout their education and beyond!
Finding ways to effectively and efficiently integrate STEM in grade 3-5 classrooms can be difficult. Oftentimes, educators and administrators struggle with how to engage students in this age range and to find an approach that works for the whole group. STEM Sports® has created a list of six tips for how to implement STEM at the elementary level.
Consider which approach you want to take
There are many approaches when facilitating STEM curriculum. Each of the following methods has its own benefits, and just because you choose one approach in the beginning, does not mean you cannot switch and use another based on student engagement and retention. These methods are commonly used by educators and administrators:
- Project-based learning is the process of allowing students to engage in real-world, hands-on examples that connect to their academics. This allows students to take control of their education and has been linked to a higher, more equitable level of understanding of the curriculum.
- Problem-based learning gives students an open-ended question to work through. Either in groups or individually, students use previous knowledge, classroom resources, and problem solving skills to create their final hypothesis.
- Inquiry-based learning starts by giving students time to create their own questions, thoughts, and scenarios about the curriculum. Then, they work through the assignment, refining these original thoughts as their comprehension grows. This goes against traditional education practices where teachers start by presenting students with all the facts. In this learning method, teachers sit back as a resource and allow students to think critically about what they are learning.
- Cross curricular learning combines multiple academic disciplines into one lesson. For example, combining science and literature or math and sports. This infused approach to education increases students’ ability to connect what they are learning to the real world, helping them to develop their 21st century skills (e.g. critical thinking, collaboration, communication).
Create an inclusive environment
Creating an inclusive environment is key to making students feel comfortable and confident during STEM lessons. This is also important to ensuring they have a positive experience and will want to continue taking STEM courses throughout their education. Below is a list of ways to create an inclusive classroom environment:
- Give students real-life role models to look up to. These people should vary in race and gender so students can find someone that they can connect with personally. This can be done through guest speakers or online videos.
- Allow students to learn at their own pace. Nobody likes to be put on the spot and called out when they do not understand something. This can create fear around subjects, especially at the grade 3-5 level. Creating a safe space for students to ask questions and work through problems is essential to the success of a lesson plan and future achievements.
- Start a mentorship or buddy program with older students. This gives students a resource to ask questions and learn from someone who has recently gone through the same curriculum/lessons. This approach is also great for students who are developing their soft skills.
Vary the topics to cater to different interests
Creating variety in the classroom is an effective way of making sure students are staying engaged and excited about learning. This is also a way educators and administrators can ensure they are catering to the different interests of their students.
One way educators can change their learning approach is by using sports as a way to facilitate STEM. At STEM Sports®, sports are used as a driver for various science, technology, engineering, and math lessons. In our STEM Golf lesson ‘Forces of a Golf Swing’, students diagram the forces involved in a golf swing. Students then predict how a change in energy will influence the behavior of the ball. Then, students design and test an experiment that answers the question, how they can increase the distance a golf ball will travel.
Consider adding in formative assessments
Pre and post assessments are a great way for educators to track student progress and the effectiveness of lessons. These assessments can also be used to evaluate student comprehension and flag students who need additional assistance on certain topics. Aside from the obvious benefits to educators, assessments also help students prepare for standardized tests by applying critical thinking and problem solving skills when working through complex problems.
Use the engineering design process (Ask, Research, Imagine, Plan, Create, Test, Improve)
The Engineering Design Process (EDP) is a series of steps followed by engineers when they are trying to solve a problem. These steps are: ask, research, imagine, plan, create, test, and improve. At STEM Sports®, we added our own final step – repeat! This process teaches students how to efficiently solve problems both in the classroom and the real-world. The STEM Sports® curriculum utilizes this process to help students solve complex engineering problems that connect to actual sport examples.
STEM Curriculum by STEM Sports®
STEM Sports® curricula are separated by grade bands. We offer curricula for the following age groups: K-2, grades 3-5, and grades 6-8. Our standards aligned supplemental curriculum is offered in 11 different sports to cater to a variety of student interests. If you are an educator or administrator interested in implementing STEM in your classroom, click here to learn more about STEM Sports®.