How to Incorporate STEM in Elementary Classrooms
STEM is a popular topic in education discussions. STEM is not a new concept, but many instructors, parents and administrators are searching for ways to integrate these principles into the classroom to create a more enriching environment. Integrated STEM classrooms engage students with their studies by asking them to find new ways to reach conclusions, solve problems and complete hands-on activities to retain real-world concepts.
Although STEM has a central focus, educators can bring STEM into the classroom in many ways and craft teaching principles to connect STEM with other core classes and materials. Check out our guide on STEM and STEAM and learn how you can use these concepts to foster curiosity, intrigue and interest in the classroom.
What Is STEM and Why Is It Important?
STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Schools use STEM to introduce students to valuable skills and knowledge they can apply to the real world. STEM fields are quickly growing, with mathematical science fields growing the fastest. Providing students with STEM education creates a well-rounded classroom that encourages projects and questions.
STEM aligns with the way individuals problem-solve and work through their daily lives. Integrating STEM in the classroom can create a robust learning environment that allows students to apply the skills they learn to their future careers.
Core components of STEM are:
- Addressing real problems
- Constructing a process
- Using math and science
- Allowing various approaches and solutions
- Encouraging creativity and innovation
- Involving collaboration and teamwork
- Using inquiry-based learning and teaching
How to Use STEM in the Classroom
Integrating STEM in the elementary classroom is an excellent way educators can transform the academic experience. When shifting to this focus, you should begin by explaining your expectations and using language that encourages students to explore topics and question conclusions. Get them to problem-solve in unique ways and experiment with interesting solutions to problems.
STEM activities for elementary schoolers include:
- Pretending to sell an item: Encourage your students to make an item they can sell to other learners. Use fake money from a board game and split the funds evenly. Give your students an hour to trade, sell and barter with classmates. Through this activity, your students can experience supply and demand, loss, profit and advertising.
- Building models: Whether you want to give your students hands-on experience with math or want to spark creativity in language courses, you can encourage them to build models. Using counting blocks, Legos or Lincoln Logs, you can teach learners to structure different shapes or design a solar system project for science classes.
- Crafting new ways to measure: You can encourage your learners to explore measurements by asking them to create a device to hold different objects. Present various objects like cotton balls, pencils, beads or other small classroom items. Then, give your students crafting supplies like sticks, glue, tape, string, cardboard pieces and anything else they want to use. Instruct them to make a sturdy device and test how much of each object it can hold. Afterward, explore concepts like mass, perimeter, volume and area so they can use their creativity to draw deep connections.
- Modifying current materials: Instructors can adjust aspects of their current curriculum to incorporate STEM practices. For instance, rather than teaching a science chapter solely through lectures, you can find a small experiment for students to complete. Teach photosynthesis by having each student grow a plant in the classroom. Encourage them to place their plants around the room and compare which plants grew the best once blooms start to sprout.
Ways to Integrate STEM With Other Subjects
STEM encompasses more subjects than those in its name, and you can integrate STEM principles into your curriculum for every class in many ways. As you discuss new concepts, focus on real-world issues, provide hands-on activities, encourage students to find answers in more than one way and come up with collaborative activities that encourage students to interact with other ideas. When you implement the core principles above, you can create an integrated STEM classroom where your student thrive.
Try these activities in your classroom:
- Blogging materials: You can get your learners to use technology and interact with others by prompting them to document their thoughts as they work through class texts and projects in history, literacy or art classes. They can create shared Google Docs to write their reviews or share videos detailing their feelings, and other classmates can comment on their work, adding to the discussion.
- Crafting scenes: You can encourage students to create a shoebox model of their favorite scenes for reading and language classes. Ask them to gather materials at home or provide tons of utensils and supplies at school. Watch as they design people, draw animals, construct props and find fun ways to bring their mental pictures to life.
- Constructing inventions: You can encourage history students to choose a time period and create an invention that would improve daily life. Students can work in teams to discuss what kinds of tools Native Americans, ancient Egyptians or Mesopotamian societies could have used to work and live.
STEAM — Integrating STEM With the Arts
Although STEM is an excellent foundation for students as they work through school and think about a future career, there is a fundamental piece missing that many want to see — art. As many instructors, students, employers and parents joined the STEM conversation, there became a shift to include the arts in the school curriculum.
STEAM takes STEM to a new level by including elements of art practices, design and concepts in the classroom. This approach reduces some of the limitations people have presented about STEM by further focusing on wonder, innovation, inquiry and critique.
STEAM balances assessments, standards and implementation, and these experiences capture at least two elements that work together to create a complete understanding. STEAM activities help strengthen soft skills like communication, leadership, professionalism and enthusiasm. Additionally, STEAM encourages cross-cultural competency as students interact with different perspectives to design innovative solutions and contribute to new discussions.
Plan for STEM Teaching Principles With Success by Design
Success by Design has been crafting teacher and student solutions since 1988. We understand the importance of scheduling and organizing, so we've created unique planners that can make it easier. Our STEM planners get students thinking about their futures. With our STEM planners, your learners can experience long-term rewards, set goals and become acquainted with the demands they need to meet for their future careers.
Students use our STEM planners to build confidence while they learn. Our elementary STEM planners have exciting features such as a question of the week, facts about a monthly topic and STEM Designations to explore subjects related to the monthly topic.
Success by Design recognizes the importance of the arts in a well-rounded education, and all of our STEM planners incorporate the arts with traditional STEM subject matter, making them a perfect choice for a STEAM-based curriculum as well.
As you build an engaging classroom experience for your students, you can feel confident that they're exploring topics on their own too. Browse our STEM planners and encourage your students to explore their natural curiosity.
- SBD, Inc.