Imagine teaching 64 students from 2nd grade through high school level in one room. That would be the ultimate challenge for differentiated instruction. However, that is what I faced every Friday in my science class this year.
We have been looking at Sarah Wiggin’s article, “What is S.T.E.M. and why should I teach it?” in which she lists ten reasons to teach S.T.E.M. This article addresses her fourth point: S.T.E.M. promotes cooperative learning.
Our students finished their year by visiting a university. I found an empty classroom and asked them to enter and take a seat. The room seated 175 students in an elevated theater setting. At the front was a low stage with a demonstration table. They saw by the periodic table on one wall that this was a chemistry class, but not one like ours back at school.
I asked them if they thought the professor would come to your desk if you needed help. They realized that it was logistically impossible. “So how would you get help?” I asked.
Recently I challenged the students in my S.T.E.M. class to build a vehicle powered by a mousetrap (two for $1 at the Dollar Store). I love seeing the student groups engage so deeply in the process that I could have left the room and I believe they would have just kept working. But something surprised me even more. Two students came into class that week with vehicles they had built at home. They had told their families about the project, and with the help of their dads had tried to improve upon their classroom designs. One of the students was a boy who
Many have asked me during the course of my 35 years in education whether students are ore difficult now compared to when I was in school hundreds of years ago. I typically reply that children are children, and they are not that different than they were in previous years. However, there is one area in which I see students struggling to a greater degree today.
Recently I ran across an article by Sarah Wiggins titled “What is STEM and why should I teach it?” (http://www.morethanaworksheet.com/2015/06/01/what-is-s-t-e-m-and-why-should-i-teach-it/)
In the article, Ms. Wiggins listed her top ten reasons for making STEM instruction the foundation for your math and science curriculum.
1. STEM has real world application
2. STEM fosters problem-solving skills
When Less is More
Recently I read an article at Smithsonian.com that told how Finland’s educational system had gone from a distant also-ran to a world leader over the past 40 years.
In a global study in 2000, Finnish students were first in reading. In 2003 they led in math. By 2006 they were first in science.
S.T.E.M. on a Shoestring
There are two undeniable facts about S.T.E.M. instruction (science, technology, engineering, and math). One is that it has blossomed in recent years. The second is that it can be expensive. Robotics kits, S.T.E.M. labs, computers, and other tools don’t come cheaply. However, there are ways to get a lot of S.T.E.M. mileage with minimal investment. Over the coming months, I will be delivering my “S.T.E.M. on a Shoestring” presentation at two conferences. Here are some ways to implement S.T.E.M. instruction for pennies. Click the links to see examples.
How to shoe a horse
My grandfather loved to take afternoon walks. On the warm days of May, he would often meet a senior walking home from high school. In his small town, everyone knew everyone, so he would engage the student in conversation. “So you are graduating in a few weeks?”
“Yes sir,” came the senior’s proud reply.
“Then how many board feet are in a twelve foot long two by eight piece of lumber?”
The startled senior would stammer and admit that he had no idea. At that point my grandfather would lean in and say, “I could solve that problem in seventh grade, and they are giving a high school diploma to you who cannot even make a guess!” Then he would walk away like a gunslinger who had left his nemesis sprawled in the dusty street.
A step in the right direction?
A recent article published in the USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times holds hope for the over abundance of testing in schools. (Click here) In the article Obama urges that we cap mandated testing to no more than 2% of classroom time, or about 3½ days per year.
Learning to walk
When my son was about a year old, he took his first steps. My wife and I sat a few feet apart and he took turns stumbling from one of us to the other. He wasn’t very steady on his feet. He staggered and fell down. Yet his failure never caused him to give up. In fact, his grin belied his rickety efforts. He laughed even when he fell down. We simply helped him back up and he tried again. He was excited by his progress instead of being discouraged by his lack of expertise.
If I had to give him a grade on walking, he would have earned an F that day based on standardized benchmark data for the
Brad Fulton is an award winning teacher and nationally recognized provider of professional development with over three decades of experience in education.
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