We hear it over and over ... the world continues to increase its reliance on experts in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. But statistics show a dramatic void in the number of Americans going into these occupations. In order for our country to keep up with the world, STEM education must begin in elementary school. So ... here are some ideas to get you started!
* On April 27, 2009 President Obama spoke at the 146th Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences. His speech emphasized the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math and was a turning point for STEM education. www.nas.edu/morenews/20090428.html (speech video/transcripts)
* As a class, discuss how government and legislation can help or hinder education. How might the new STEM Ed laws change things? How did the NCLB laws change education? Why is it important to have a national focus or standards for education? What was our country like before standardized education? Brainstorm historical examples and how they changed our country--not just in education--but bigger impacts.
* What if YOU were in charge or could write educational legislation? Have your students interview each other in writing, video, or podcast. Sample interview questions: What would you change? What would be your focus and why? What would the impacts of your legislation be?
* Teach your students the tools of the trade! Mathematics is a crucial tool for construction. First decide on an age and experience-appropriate construction project. If construction is brand new to your students, start with an assembly kit, then move on to include the full design process to develop their own project.
During the design stage: Discuss scale and actual size. Have your students label their designs with measurements before construction. If measurements change during actual construction, record the final measurements on the designs.
During the construction stage: Students should measure and mark all construction material that needs resizing. For safety, teachers should be the designated "saw master." Depending on the project, students might also be measuring weight, height, and average/maximum/minimum weight or distance traveled. Don't forget the other tools! I'm talking real tools! With supervision, even younger students can learn how to safely use hammers, screwdrivers, and pliers; older students can use power screwdrivers and drills.
* Learn the language of robots! Robotic programming is all about math and logic. You can purchase programmable robots for around $100. With these robots, your students learn how to logically break down movements into measured sequence. If your robot actually "travels," your students can also measure distance and turning in degrees of circle. A fun way to introduce basic commands is to have your students "be a robot" and act out each command that you, the "programmer," call or write. If buying a robot is not in your budget, you can try "Bots" for virtual programming: www.iknowthat.com/ com/L3?Area=BattleBot_Puzzle. Learn about the history and workings of robotics: www.thetech.org/ exhibits/online/robotics/.
* We use the scientific method to systematically discover and yield an end result or solution; but innovation requires something more. It requires multiple pathways of plausible solutions revealed through the design process. …