Why S.T.E.M.? Why now?
These are compelling questions given all that is asked of schools today, especially in elementary where reform efforts, frequently multiple efforts at the same time, all happens to the same individual teacher. We took the seemingly competing priorities of Common Core English / Language Arts Stanards, Common Core Math Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, coupled with new teacher and principal evalution systems and new high stakes testing system as an opportunity to look for connections between all of the seemingly competing priorities.
STEM brings rigor and relevance to work in ways that motivates kids to persist and persevere over complex problems. The hands on nature of STEM work coupled with appropriately high expectations for rigorous academics provides engagement that encourages students to work harder, to work longer and to engage in new learning if for no other reason than their interest is peaked by compelling questions they have ownership over. We believe children are inherently curious, and we are using our S.T.E.M. work to tap into that innate intellectual curiosity to drive the content deeper and in connected ways. We're early in our S.T.E.M. journey, but we are committed to using this work as a spring board to learning for our students.
What is STEM?
Scientific Literacy is the ability to use scientific knowledge (in physics, chemistry, biological sciences, and earth/space sciences) and processes to understand the natural world and to participate in decisions that affect it (in three main areas — science in life and health, science in Earth and environment, and science in technology).
Technological Literacy is the ability to use, manage, understand, and assess technology. Students should know how to use new technologies, understand how new technologies are developed, and have skills to analyze how new technologies affect us, our nation, and the world. Technology is the innovation, change, or modification of the natural environment to satisfy perceived human needs and wants.
Engineering literacy is the understanding of how technologies are developed via the engineering design process; lessons are project-based and integrate multiple subjects, making difficult concepts relevant and tangible to students and tapping into students' natural interest in problem-solving. Engineering design is the systematic and creative application of scientific and mathematic principles to practical ends such as the design, manufacture, and operation of efficient and economical structures, machines, processes, and systems.
Mathematical literacy means the ability of students to analyze, reason, and communicate ideas effectively as they pose, formulate, solve, and interpret solutions to mathematical problems in a variety of situations.
STEM literacy is an interdisciplinary area of study that bridges the four areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM literacy does not simply mean achieving literacy in these four strands or silos. Consequently, a STEM classroom shifts students away from learning discrete bits and pieces of phenomenon and rote procedures and toward the world.
- "Building a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Agenda". National Governor's Association, 2009
- Report to Christine Gregoire, Governor, and the Washington State Legislature: Recommendations for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education. STEM Workgroup, December 1, 2010