STEM learning

What exactly is STEM and why has STEM been a hot topic in education lately?

Where did it come from and why are we teaching our kids under this banner?

According to a report by World Economic Forum: “At least 133 million new roles generated as a result of the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms may emerge globally by 2022. There will also be strong demand for technical skills like programming and app development, along with skills that computers can’t easily master such as creative thinking, problem-solving and negotiating.”

So what is STEM exactly?

STEM stands for: science, technology, engineering and math.

STEM curriculum blends these subjects in order to teach “21st-century skills” or tools students need to have if they wish to succeed in the workplace of the “future.”

Common elements of quality STEM learning include:

  • Design-Focus: using design tools and techniques to attack big problems or opportunity (challenge-based, problem-based learning).
  • Active Application: applying knowledge and skills to real-world situations and constructing or prototyping solutions to challenges (maker, project-based learning).
  • Integration: real world problems aren’t limited to a discipline—solutions almost always draw from many fields.

The idea is that in order to be prepared for jobs and compete with students from different parts of the world, students need to be able to solve problems, find and use evidence, collaborate on projects and think critically. These skills and the thinking that goes with it, are taught in STEM related subjects.

In saying this, STEM can still be hard to define. And not to confuse you, it’s such a popular term that it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The science (biology, chemistry, etc.) and math (algebra, calculus, etc.) parts of the abbreviation might be easy to figure out. The technology and engineering parts can often be less clear. Technology includes topics such as computer programming (coding), analytics and design. Engineering can include topics like robotics, electronics and civil engineering.

The key term, when talking about STEM, is integration. STEM curriculum intentionally melds these disciplines. It’s a blended approach that encourages hands-on experience and gives students the chance to gain and apply relevant, “real world” knowledge in the classroom.

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By Rachel Colsaerts

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