Is It STEM? Evaluating STEM Activities and Challenges

Is It STEM? Evaluating STEM Activities and Challenges

If you have not read my previous post, Why STEM Challenges and Makerspaces Might Just Be a Fad, check it out! After we have identified what's not STEM, we can identify what is. To determine if it is an authentic STEM activity, be sure it includes all of the following:

  1. Authentic goals. A STEM activity requires a real-world goal that provokes students to find their own solutions and form their own ideas about scientific, technological, engineering, or mathematic concepts. The goal of just "creating" is not enough to qualify it as STEM.
  2. Authentic materials. Materials should reflect the real-life materials they are representing or standing in place of. They should react to stimuli the same way the "real-deal" would. For example, building a house that can withstand shear earthquake forces would be a great STEM activity, but not if you built the house out of licorice.
  3. A specific standards tie-in. Ask yourself, what concept are students learning or exploring? If you can't answer that question with something relating to your curriculum, it's most likely a "fluff" activity. Students should be making specific connections between content areas every time they do a STEM activity.
  4. Elements of at least two of the following: science, technology, engineering, or math. STEM activities don't have to have all four topics, and usually will not, but should have more than one to promote integration. A science lesson on its own is not a STEM challenge, for example.

So is your activity authentically STEM? Does it meet the above criteria? Leave your favorite STEM activity in the comments below!

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