What is STEM?
STEM stands for:
STEM refers to a set of interlinked subjects that are important foundational concepts for kids and adults in today’s world.
STEM is an educational curriculum that focuses heavily on the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In traditional education, these subjects are siloed into an independent curriculum for each. But with STEM young people are learning from an interdisciplinary approach designed to prepare them for the workforce. STEM-based classrooms and activities help young people connect the dots between the subject areas.
STEM in the classroom is not only about learning to combine subjects across the curriculum. It’s also a lot of fun!! By bringing STEM education to the classroom, there are so many opportunities for creative and innovative projects. Check out our guide, “How to Make Coding Fun,” for some awesome ideas to make STEM-based coding activities fun!
STEM is an educational philosophy that teaches these subjects together in project-based lessons that resemble challenges students would face in real life outside the classroom. In the real world, there are very few challenges that only require one skill set – without real-world application its difficult to understand how various skills are connected. Programmers, for example, use science, math, design, technology, and art to create their final product. You wouldn’t be able to design a new app, video game or computer program without an understanding of all of the STEM concepts.
Check out our guide to the best STEM gifts for kids!
Why STEM is Important?
In a world where we can ask Siri, Alexa, or Google to answer our questions, education is no longer about simply knowing the answers. Education in the modern world is knowing which questions to ask and how to think critically when a problem presents itself. With the advancements in technology comes the necessity for young people to learn media literacy, think critically, and evaluate the information they’re consuming. STEM helps young people develop the skills to assess what they’re reading and determine its merits. They’re taught how to think critically while problem-solving for real-world solutions. Plus, STEM is inquiry-based – so young people are encouraged to ask questions about the world and seek out their own answers.
Benefits of STEM
One of the common misconceptions about STEM education is that students need all of the latest technology and gadgets to stay ahead of the curve. While it is true that technology is always changing and growing, STEM isn’t really about having the most expensive equipment. STEM should be focused on problem-solving and exposing young people for a life based in technology. It should prepare them to learn new advancements continuously throughout their lives by giving them the groundwork for what to expect with new tools and programs that will be developed in their future.
You don’t even need fancy technology to learn to code. Check out some of our best unplugged coding activities that don’t require a computer!
At its roots – STEM is about learning how to learn and adapt. STEM encourages risk-taking through teamwork, communication, and collaboration in an environment where it’s safe to fail and learn from mistakes. Students learn to be creative and innovative while completing projects from start to finish. When students learn through STEM projects they’re building skills of determination and perseverance through difficult tasks.
Benefits of Early STEM Education
It is never too early to start with STEM-based activities in early education. Young children learn through play and utilizing their senses. The perfect example of an appropriate lesson plan is using traditional teaching methods like story time and integrating activities based on creative exploration. Maybe you read “The Three Little Pigs” and ask your students to use materials found in nature to build houses.
Or using the story of “Humpty Dumpty” to have students build a wall solid enough to sustain the weight of an egg. You can take the lessons further by helping them use the scientific method to test their hypothesis. Will this wall sustain Humpty’s weight? Let’s find out and explore how they could have improved upon their designs. In both examples, you’re asking them to integrate their creative skills to solve a problem.
How to bring STEM to the classroom?
There are so many ways to bring a STEM curriculum to the classroom. All you need is an idea to get started!
Check out some of our favorite classroom STEM resources:
Get your classroom STEM-inspired with these fun posters and bulletins:
Activity Kits for the STEM Classroom:
- Makedo Cardboard Construction Kit
- K’Nex Simple Machines Classroom Pack
- LEGO Education WeDo Core Set
- Straw Constructor STEM building Set
What is STEAM?
STEAM adds in the letter A for art because they like to emphasize the creative and problem-solving process that comes with STEM education. Some educators argue that it’s innate in the application of STEM coursework but others argue that highlighting the arts within these lessons is necessary so we do not forget the importance of creative exploration in the problem-solving process.
Why Coding is Important in STEM
We interact with code dozens of times before we leave our houses in the morning. From shutting off the alarm clock to checking our phones in the morning to using the microwave to heat up our food. Computer programmers are one of the most in-demand professions today. Over 50% of the fastest growing jobs in the US are in STEM education fields.
Our young people need to understand how things work, how they break, and how they fix them. Contrary to popular belief coding itself is not difficult, the difficulty lies in debugging coding errors. When students learn to debug their code, they’re learning the process of finding solutions to their errors and being able to view things through a critical problem-solving lens. It helps them apply those same skill sets throughout their lives. In fact, there are many benefits to coding beyond the computer! It builds independence, computational learning skills, and the ability to be critical of their own efforts.
Coding in the Classroom
It’s easy to bring coding into the classroom. Here at Teach Your Kids Code, we have many ideas to bring coding to the classroom in a fun inquiry-based STEM curriculum. Check out some of your best coding resources for the classroom:
- 13 Fun and Free Coding Activities
- Learn Binary Numbers
- Free Binary Numbers Worksheets
- Teach your kids to code with a deck of cards!
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Katie is mom of two rambunctious boys and a self-proclaimed super nerd. With a background in neuroscience, she is passionate about sharing her love of all things STEM with her kids. She loves to find creative ways to teach kids computer science and geek out about coding and math. You can find her blogging at Teach Your Kids Code and in her spare time, documenting her families travels at Tear Free Travel.