As I started my new job as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) facilitator for six counties in northern Nevada not long ago, one of my first self assigned tasks has been to clarify just what being a STEM school (or its other itinerations STEAM and STREAM and there are others) means … or can mean or should mean. Partly because I’ve been asked that question, so obviously I better have a clear idea of what STEM is how STEM education is perceived by all concerned, but also so I have a feel for just how far I can push the edge and I can facilitate others in pushing the edges.
In discussions here and online I’ve heard some interesting interpretations. I was told by teachers at one school, for example, that considers itself a “STEM Academy” that they teach science at every grade for at least 15 minutes every day … so that makes them a STEM school. Hmmmm.
My favorite definition of STEM so far has actually come from the Nevada Department of Education and the Gathering Genius web site published by the Nevada STEM Coalition:
The Nevada Department of Education defines STEM:
“STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education focuses on active teaching and learning, centered on relevant experiences, problem-solving, and critical thinking processes. STEM education emphasizes the natural interconnectedness of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and their connection to other disciplines, to produce informed citizens that posses and apply the necessary understandings to expand Nevada’s STEM-capable workforce in order to compete in a global society.”
“… and their connection to other disciplines, …” to me is key. STEM is not just doing science, technology, engineering and math – it is reading, writing, sharing learning, collaborating, discussing and even arguing about outcomes and perceptions (and more). It’s making mistakes … being messy if you will … and then learning from the mistakes and making things work and refining whatever you are working on.
There’s so much more to what STEM is, but what is it to you? This whole STEM piece has been around for a long time … it’s been ignored for a long time as well during the not leaving anyone behind era …. and as we race to the top. But now it is coming back. How can that STEM piece look or what should that STEM piece look like in our schools? How would you answer the question, “What does a STEM school look like?” Are there additions or changes you would make to Nevada’s description of STEM above?
Learning is messy!