Do you ever hear your staff say “I’m not good at science” or “I’m not good at teaching STEM”? Do you ever think “I don’t do science”? If so, you or your staff may need some help embracing teaching STEM.
Sometimes we, as humans, like to look for complicated explanations. When thinking about STEM activities, we might look for an experiment, or a great engineering challenge. We may exhaust all resources and spend hours searching for quality STEM activities. We may not think to look at the things we do every day as potential STEM activities for youth.
STEM is everywhere and in most things that we do. Did you do any cooking or baking today? Check out this explanation of how chemistry is involved in the engineering of the perfect cookie. To make the perfect cookie, you not only used science and engineering, but you also had to use some technology (the mixer) and math skills to calculate how much of each ingredient to add to your mixture. If that isn’t a perfect example of a STEM activity, I don’t know what is! Think about the last garment you bought. I bet a lot of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) went into creating that item. The designer uses science to select the appropriate fibers and fabric weave for the garment, while technology allows the designer to sew the fabric together to make the garment. Designers engineer their garments by designing and redesigning their garment to solve a problem: clothing people. They also use the elements of art and principles of design to design the aesthetics, choose colors, and patterns for that garment. Finally, designers use math to calculate seam allowances and how much fabric to purchase for the garment. See, STEM (even STEAM) is in everything!
If you or your staff don’t think you are good at teaching STEM, think of yourself as a learner who is interested and excited in experiencing STEM with youth. Your curiosity, excitement, and engagement will spark their interest in STEM and engage them in active STEM learning. Here are some additional steps to help you and your staff feel comfortable teaching STEM:
1-Select a quality STEM activity. Select activities that meet youth’s (and your own) interests and program needs. Look for clear directions, a list of materials, and some background information.
2-Practice the activity. Being ready for possible questions and having some purposeful questions prepared will help increase confidence in teaching the STEM activity.
3-Have your materials ready. This will make group management much easier during the STEM activity allowing you to relax and have fun doing STEM with youth.
4-Plan time for reflection. Building in time for youth to reflect and process what they are learning will make the activity more meaningful and give you some breaks to process how it is going, as well!
And, practice, practice, practice. We all need practice to feel more comfortable, confident, and get better at doing things. So start doing STEM with your youth and encourage them to see that STEM is everywhere!