Teacher diaries: discover STEM within the curriculum

 A few weeks ago, I was watching the CBS Sunday Morning show when their 5-minute story on “How the Steadicam changed movies” really caught my attention. Garrett Brown, inventor of the Steadicam said: “I was a better inventor then I was cameraman and director”. BINGO! Here was the perfect example that STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math occur fluidly and naturally within all disciplines, not separately.

The National Science Foundation came up with the acronym STEM in the 1990s. The intent was indeed to refer to four specific disciplines, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The term STEM gained momentum when in April of 2013, President Barack Obama stated at the Third Annual White House Science Fair that we needed to “create an all-hands-on-deck approach to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math”. However, what remained missing was a clear definition of what this approach would look like. Addressing these subjects seems to have taken on a traditional educational approach, laser-focused on increased funding and curriculum offerings in very specific disciplines. Understandably, educators in other disciplines felt overlooked resulting in additional acronyms including STEAM (Arts), STREAM, (Arts and Reading), and STEMM, (Music).

I don’t think we need to add A for the Arts, or an R for reading, or the M for Music because STEM can be found in every discipline. Find the STEM in your curriculum, not the curriculum for STEM. Exposing students at a young age to the STEM principles that are everywhere within the curriculum show students what is possible. Providing that window that ignites something in them that otherwise would go dormant. Mitch Resnick, Director of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, reminds us that we live in a creative society and we need to “help students develop as creative thinkers”. Rather than isolate it, integrate it.

Teach the importance of syntax, structure, proofreading by incorporating a coding experience. Use software and engineering to design a new treehouse for Swiss Family Robinson. Design a new way to draw using software and robotics. Create a new style of music or create a composition. How about a song that reacts to different light sensors?

Seymour Papert famously said, “The Role of the Teachers is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge”. As you find the STEM within your curriculum, not the curriculum in the STEM, kits like SAM Labs are great additions to any classroom.

Look for kits that are:

  • open-ended, with no ceiling or basement. These will provide the most flexibility in a curriculum
  • the kit should be a blank slate, so if students want to come up with a better motorcycle for “Ralph the Mouse” (Beverly Cleary), an automated way to paint a fence for Tom Sawyer, or any other number of ideas they have, they can!
  • that allow the learner to be the inventor, creator and solve the problems themselves.
  • having an open-ended invention kit allows for the integration across all subject matters in creative ways.

Brown now holds 50 patents for a variety of technological inventions that enhance the arts and filmmaking. Listening to him during the CBS piece he confidently explains the science and technology behind the Steadicam. “I am an Inventor” he states. Yes, he is! He is not a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math major.  He is someone who followed his passion and used the resources and tools available to support his creativity and ideas.

About the author: 

Laurie Green (a.k.a. Mrs.Geeky) has been working in technology and education for almost 30 years. She holds a Masters Degree from Cleveland State University in Curriculum and Foundations with a focus on Technology Education, and a Bachelors in Business from The Ohio State University. A recognized speaker, curriculum consultant, and workshop leader, her experiences have included serving on the keynote panel for Learning 2.0 in Shanghai, China, a Keynote speaker for the Maths and Science conference in Queensland, Australia, and presenting at various conferences throughout the United States including ISTE and OETC. She is a Certified LEGO Robotics Instructor, Quality Matters Certified, INFOhio Coach Makey Makey Certified trainer, Raspberry Pi Certified Educator, and serves on the ISTE PLN Admin committee. Laurie has taught at the Laurel School for Girls, was the online learning coordinator for PBS ideastream®, Workshop leader with Western Reserve Education Services PBS, taught at the Cleveland public schools, and Cleveland State University and is an adjunct professor for Kent State University. Laurie enjoys developing customized professional development experiences for faculty and staff. For more information including contacting Laurie for Professional Development go to www.mrsgeeky.com