Magazine article Technology and Children

STEM Topics in Elementary Education

Magazine article Technology and Children

STEM Topics in Elementary Education

Article excerpt


There is a push in American society to engage youth in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) related fields and career paths. The United States is currently experiencing a deficit in the number of professional engineers and technologists available to solve problems. The promotion of STEM topics in education could have far-reaching implications related to the nation's stability and security. Steven C. Beering, the Chairman of the National Science Board, in a letter to Barack Obama, stated, "Our national economic prosperity and security require that we remain a world leader in science and technology." With enthusiastic curiosity, elementary level students are generally eager and excited to learn about STEM topics. When presented with the right design-based activity, students are capable of excelling as they develop STEM-related knowledge and competencies. Many times, however, due to the constraints of time, it is often challenging for an elementary teacher to find or develop exciting, standards-based STEM curriculum suitable for the cognitive abilities of younger students.

why teach STEM?

The acronym "STEM" has become very popular in modern dialogue. Many times however, people don't stop and think about the various disciplines represented by each letter of "STEM." With this idea in mind, it is important to define the "T" and "E" in STEM. Math and science may be self-explanatory, but technology and engineering play very important, albeit distinct, roles in society. The National Center for Technological Literacy stated, "... technology has a long history--as long as human history. Technologies are solutions designed by humans to fulfill a need. Pens, water filtration, wheelchairs, and tunnels are all technologies. The process that creates technologies is engineering."

According to ITEA's Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology (2000/2002/2007), the United States is becoming increasingly dependent on the use of technologies. As this dependence increases, however, public interest in STEM topics is dwindling. In relation to education, the National Science Board States, "In the next decade, the Nation is going to need 2.2 million new teachers in K-12 schools and community education settings. The greatest need now and into the future is for teachers in the STEM areas" (National Science Board, 2007, p. 1). Engineering your Future (Oakes, Leone, and Gunn, 2006) presents the fact that many students enter collegiate engineering programs without even a clear understanding of the meaning of engineering or its practice. Given these trends, it would naturally seem important to expose children to STEM topics at an early age, and reinforce these concepts steadily throughout the entire K-12 experience.

STEM education may seem a daunting and unrealistic task at the elementary level. The contrary is the case, however, as STEM topics can be easily integrated into core academic subject material. Engineering design curriculum uses math, science, and other core subjects to teach about technology and engineering, all while making schoolwork seem relevant to the young student. Several different engineering design curriculum models have been developed by various organizations. In this article, two curriculum models will be explored. Project Lead the Way (PLTW), offers several elementary lessons that are both exciting and appropriate for elementary level students. Engineering is Elementary (EiE), also featured in this article, strives to promote technological literacy and engineering skills.

two of the available curriculum

Project Lead The Way

Project Lead the Way is a national nonprofit organization offering extensive middle and high school curriculum featuring STEM topics. Project Lead the Way is the largest pre-engineering curriculum available at the secondary level. (Blais & Adelson, 1998, Bottoms & Anthony, 2005). …

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