Sunday, October 30, 2011


What is STEM STEM? Most people already know STEM - Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, but STEM STEM is Second Tuesday Every Month Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics.

Most science teachers are already teaching science, technology, engineering, or mathematics in some form or another, but STEM STEM brings the application of these disciplines to the forefront of the lessons. With the push for more STEM teaching teachers are left to their own resources at times to do this. For some this is easy, for others they may not know where to start.

The majority of teachers feel very confident teaching in their expertise, but when asked to teach something outside their field (yes, it happens all the time) they are left in situations that may have them apprehensive to try new things in that discipline.

Knowing your discipline is very important, but what is also important is allowing students to ask questions and explore things that may be unfamiliar to you. Right now I have a group of students working on a solar water heater. Did I mention I was a biologist? I may not know everything needed to assist them in this project, but I know where to get help and I know the basic elements of scientific methodology.

STEM STEM has allowed me to invite teachers and students from local high schools to come and share independent inquiry with each other. This collaboration allows students and teachers to review project elements not just horizontally (student to student) but also vertically where teachers, students, mentors, professionals in the field all together discuss project elements, ideas, etc.

Two other components of STEM STEM are technology and teamwork. Technology is not just replacing blackboard notes with powerpoint slides, or spiral notebooks with laptops, but in STEM STEM we will use social networking. Teachers and students will be enrolled into an online course that will allow for collaboration and peer review in a format familiar with today's student. It is important for k-12 teachers to teach proper professional online conversation which differs from their personal 'facebook' type of social media. Already these lessons have had to be revisited as this is an ongoing process. Students may not know what is acceptable if they do not have a model to follow.

Each team will also document their projects from inception, design, testing, and evaluation. I have been able to acquire equipment that each teacher will need to successfully complete the technology portion. Teamwork is an ongoing lesson that students will learn. Teamwork in this case is dependent on each group member being a valuable 'cog in the wheel'.

Out of the 7 schools invited, we had response from 3. The first meeting was attended by my students, and teacher/student teams from 2 other local high schools. I am hoping this pilot program is successful so that we can continue it next year. I have had a couple of schools contact me since our first meeting that asked I invited them next year.

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