STEM Education in the Classroom

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Written by Holly (Teach Starter)

I just love this quote to explain why, as teachers, we need to move with the times!

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The students we are teaching today are going to be joining a very different workforce. The inclusion of STEM in our classrooms is a fantastic place to start!


What is STEM?

Why is STEM important in the classroom?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It isn’t just a grouping of different subjects, it is a campaign to develop the deep scientific, mathematic and problem-solving skills that our students are going to need to be competitive in the workforce. By introducing this way of thinking in the early years, we are laying the foundation for our future leaders.

STEM Mini Challenge Cards


What does STEM look like in the classroom?

  • Students working together to solve a problem.
  • Inquiry-driven lessons that spark student curiosity.
  • Less direct instruction and more inquiry-based learning.
  • Engaged students who are buzzing with excitement.
  • There are multiple solutions to a problem and students are encouraged to understand that failure is a part of learning.

This is of one of our STEM mini challenges, students are provided with toothpicks and play dough. They need to construct a 3D cube. Mathematical topic: 3D Shapes


STEM Engineering Design Process

The STEM process is guided by the Engineering Design Process.

  1. Ask – What is the problem? Are there any challenges?
  2. Imagine – Brainstorm ideas and pick the best one!
  3. Plan – Make a list of materials and draw a labelled diagram.
  4. Create – Follow your plan. Create a model if possible. Test it! Does it meet the goal?
  5. Improve – Did it work? Can you make it better? What could be done differently?
  6. Share – Is the problem solved? What changes need to be made? What do others think?

It is important that your students understand the key steps of this process.

By displaying this process somewhere in your classroom, you can continually refer to steps of the process. It gives your students a clear idea and understanding of where they are up to and what they need to do.

This process is outlined clearly in our STEM – Engineering Process Poster Pack.

The Engineering Process Teaching Resources


STEM Classroom Activities and Ideas

What are some hints and tips for incorporating STEM into the classroom?

A lot of what we do every day can be turned into STEM learning. It’s just a matter of shifting your way of thinking. When planning simple lessons, ask yourself how can you link an open-ended problem or question that requires your students to work in a team and problem solve together?

Other STEM activity ideas for the classroom can be planned mini challenges or more involved investigations specifically designed to foster that inquiry-driven process.

We have created STEM challenge cards that have been very popular! Cute designs with simple instructions and a list of suggested materials.

Mini Stem Challenge Cards - Lower Years

These challenge cards are also available for the Upper Years.

We have also developed a number of more in depth STEM investigations that can be used in your classroom.

STEM mini challenge: Provide students with materials to create a marble maze. Mathematical concept: location and transformation.


Printable STEM Teaching Resources

STEM Planning and Reflection Templates

By having your students jot down their ideas in the planning and reflection steps of the Engineering Process, you are providing them with helpful ways to organise their thinking. It is also a great way for you to track how the students are progressing.

We have a number of planning and reflection templates suitable for a range of ages that are perfect for any STEM challenge you do with your students in your classroom. Our investigations also include templates you can print and use with your class.

STEM Small Group Roles

STEM activities and classes feature collaboration and teamwork. Again, another aspect of STEM that is extremely important. As teachers, we need to prepare our students to learn to work together successfully in teams.

By providing roles for each member of the group, you are giving them a purpose. This also allows quiet or more timid students the opportunity to feel needed in a group and also provides guidelines for the more dominant students within a group.

Our STEM Job Description Posters and Lanyards are the perfect addition to your STEM classroom. The posters outline the position description and responsibilities. The lanyards make it easy to identify who is who during the group work.

The group positions include:Challenge Captain

  • Challenge Captain
  • Materials Master
  • Testing Coordinator
  • Construction Worker
  • Chief Architect
  • Reporter
  • Safety Officer

Mini STEM Challenge - Lower Years

STEM mini challenge: Students need to race a toy car from one end of their desk to the other, without touching the car! They are provided with a number of materials. Scientific topic: force.

We would love to hear how you manage STEM in your classroom?

Tell us in the comments below ?

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Comments & feedback

  • Barbara Williamson

    Love the STEM activities, would love more ideas for upper school!

    Comment by Barbara Williamson on August 17, 2017 at 7:49 pm


  • Meghan Murray

    THANK YOU TEACH STARTER! As always you are a lifesaver and do everything better than I could have done it myself!

    Comment by Meghan Murray on January 21, 2018 at 8:04 pm


    • Holly (Teach Starter) Holly (Teach Starter)

      You’re most welcome Meaghan! So glad you find this blog helpful.

      Official comment by Holly (Teach Starter) on January 22, 2018 at 6:56 am


  • Joanne Campbell

    I’m about to become a STEM teacher for the first time (specialist role) after 11 years in the classroom. I would like to know what STEM teachers report on – do they report on science and technology? and do classroom teachers teach science seperately as well or is the whole science snd tech curriculum combined to STEM?

    Thanks

    Comment by Joanne Campbell on November 9, 2018 at 1:41 pm


    • Kristian Kristian

      Hi there Joanne,
      Thanks for your query, from what I can see on the Australian Curriculum site it can be assessed cross-curricular. The following quote is from the site:

      STEM is addressed in the Australian Curriculum through the learning areas of Science, Technologies and Mathematics, and through general capabilities, particularly Numeracy, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capability, and Critical and Creative Thinking.
      Engineering is addressed in Design and Technologies through a dedicated content description at each band that focuses on engineering principles and systems. It is presented across the curriculum through Science, Digital Technologies and Mathematics. Engineering often provides a context for STEM learning.
      Evidence from the project suggests that STEM knowledge, understanding and skills seem to be:
      – strengthened when the connections between learning areas are emphasised
      – enriched when learning areas combine to find authentic learning opportunities for students in answer to an identified problem or in the creation of a solution.

      Official comment by Kristian on November 12, 2018 at 1:56 pm


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