What is STEM? It is commonly defined as preparing students to be competent and skilled in the four disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A successful STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy and is an essential part of 21st century teaching and learning.
It’s a hot topic in education right now.
Community Consolidated School District 15 is exploring the possibility of creating a STEM Academy and Demonstration School and is expected to present its findings and recommendation to the Board of Education in August.
District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson noted that this academy concept would demonstrate 21st century skills that would be essential for all students to acquire in order to participate in a global economy. Teachers throughout the district would have the opportunity to observe instruction in the academy and utilize the teaching techniques in their own classrooms.
The goal is to launch a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Academy in the fall of 2012 with select sixth, seventh and eighth grade students.
What can parents do today to take charge of their child's education in these core competencies? There is a tremendous amount of resources available online and locally for both teachers and parents to benefit students of all ages.
"S" is for Science and if you have a budding chemist at home like I do – check out this online periodic table. It helps children understand this important science tool by going through it piece by piece.
Take it a step further with an educational field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry. My son loved their interactive periodic table of elements. It really makes the elements come to life and shows what happens when you combine them.
Harper College’s InZone summer program offers a variety of classes in STEM. Children ages 8 to 11 can master the chemistry behind all that is the bubble in Bubbleology, learn about the science of simple machines and principles of force and motion in Crazy Contraptions or improve their math skills in Mighty Mathematicians.
Using LEGO' Robotics technology, students can learn about the principles of engineering as well as math and physics concepts in Engineering through Robotics. Harper also offers a technology class just for girls taught by a woman working in the technology field.
The complete listing of InZone Tech-Knowledgy classes for children ages 8 to 14 is available online. Registration is ongoing.
"E" for Engineering is covered in Discover Engineering, a multimedia site that uses video activities to showcase engineering careers. Take a look at the section Cool Stuff where imagination meets reality. Students can try engineering activities and games, learn more about engineering careers and investigate related Web resources.
The "M" in STEM is well covered on NASA's Connect Math Simulations site. There are short video clips demonstrating how algebra and geometry topics in ratios, percents and graphing apply for gravity, auroral activity, Mach speed of airplanes and balance of a teeter-totter. The videos are colorful, fast paced and use high-interest, real-life science examples to teach math concepts.
What programs, activities or Web sites have you found to foster your child’s interest in science, technology, engineering or math?