Gwen Payne, author
STEM subjects are amongst the most important on a syllabus, but given their technical nature, it can often be difficult to translate them into exciting lesson plans. If you want to give your students a leg-up in science, technology, engineering, and math, it’s important to first understand their real world applications and why, to those who are specialized, they proved so fascinating in the first place.
If you want your students to engage with applied subjects, it’s important that they first recognize their practical benefits. How many math teachers have heard the common question, “What use is pythagoras going to be in the real world?” By explaining the uses of STEM in relatable contexts, you can pique your students’ interests - but how and where are they applied? Beyond their immediate use in research and technology, the answer often relates to the way that STEM subjects shape and nurture a certain way of thinking. Math, practiced over long periods, enhances analytical and problem-solving skills, often leading to increases in overall intelligence. Engineering can help you develop modular systems thinking, which will help the student to better understand systems and identify patterns.
It can also be worth pointing out the potentially lucrative career paths that are available to those who succeed in STEM subjects. Typically, the most high-paid professionals in the world are graduates in STEM or STEM-related subjects, gaining access to roles in finance, tech, medicine, and the energy sector. Even as a teacher, if you find yourself drawn to the monetary prospects of these subjects, it’s worth keeping in mind the viability of master’s degrees. With the advent of remote learning, it’s now possible to complete a course even as you’re working in the classroom full-time, so long as you have a working internet and you can stay committed.
Recent studies show only 16% of kids in the USA continue with STEM subjects after college. Although the subjects themselves can be interesting, it’s often very difficult to maintain student engagement. That’s why it’s important to consider different learning styles - some will respond well to auditory information, others kinesthetic exercises, many prefer visual presentations and a few are better off left alone to read and write. If you can accommodate multiple learning styles in your lesson plans, you’re more likely to reach a wider range of students.
To achieve this, some teachers utilize hands-on learning - carrying out real-time experiments and breaking up diagrams and graphs with practical demonstrations. It can also be a good idea to have your students work in teams or pairs, this will add a social dynamic to the work and help them to build positive associations with the subject. If you’re ever at a loss for ideas, remember there are plenty available online.
Everyone needs help when it comes to creating a fun and engaging teaching experience. Often, the difference between a great class and one that drags is the amount of time the teacher has been allowed to plan it. To free up more time for yourself, it’s worth looking into time management tools - mobile apps such as Toodledo can keep your schedule organized, track your productivity and help you to meet your goals/deadlines. If you’re willing to spend a bit of money, there are also a variety of paid resources with book lists, discussion guides, activities, and lesson plans. Some publications such as National Geographic offer educational opportunities and interactive portals that can help steer your classroom in a more engaging direction. Ultimately, students draw from their teachers’ energy. If you’re interested in a subject and you can express it, the class is likely to follow suit. STEM subjects can be just as enjoyable as any other, all it takes is an open mind!
MMS Consultants is a team of civil engineers and subdivision designers located in Iowa City, Iowa.
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