Magazine article Children's Technology and Engineering

Curriculum Integration of Resources Addressing STEM Concepts for the Students' Future

Magazine article Children's Technology and Engineering

Curriculum Integration of Resources Addressing STEM Concepts for the Students' Future

Article excerpt

Introduction

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts can challenge students both in content and in practice. Due to the generally difficult nature of these concepts, during early education it is necessary to instill a lifelong interest and appreciation for concepts invaluable to a plethora of life and career goals. "In addition to helping students to learn about various products of science and technology ... [teachers] must help [students] to develop realistic concepts about the nature of these fields and to develop expertise..." that students will use for life (Bencze, 2010, p. 44). One way for elementary school educators to enthrall children is to embrace technological innovation in their classrooms and use free educational resources through the Internet. More specifically, many learning games provide already-integrated STEM content while stimulating further inquiry through interactivity, such as the resource discussed in this article.

Background

Technological fields are growing, yet student interest and investment in them is not, leading to apprehension about the future of vital technical vocations (Rockland et. al., 2010, p. 53). Although elementary school may be considered by some as too early to be thinking of careers, it is an ideal place to attempt to instill in children lifelong fascinations as well as overarching yet simple skills applicable to all future endeavors. Dejarnette (2012) stated the concept similarly and more specifically, "Implementing STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] concepts in elementary school curricula involves teaching students through problem-based learning and collaboration that resembles the workplace of the future" (p. 82). Essentially, regardless of the subject matter, it is imperative that students learn the mental skills to work successfully with any information or situation presented to them.

Even in lower grades, curriculum in schools is often packed, leaving little to no room for technology and engineering. Meanwhile, science and mathematics are not always applicable to the real world as they are traditionally taught because traditional instruction often relies on "content knowledge" as opposed to "developing process skills" (Dejarnette, 2012, p. 79). The longstanding focus on bare-bones content can sometimes be received as extremely boring by curious elementary school children, and it often depletes their interest in the subject matter. Uniquely, an integrative curriculum provides an ideal opportunity to transmit the same content in a more captivating manner that interrelates to other subjects as well as life at large.

Resource

The properties of materials play vital roles in science, technology, engineering, and physics. Thus, prospective engineers and scientists--today's young students--ought to be imbued with a basic understanding of the properties of common materials. This knowledge may allay some of the concerns expressed in the study by Rockland et. al. (2010), which expresses concern that students are not pursuing technological and engineering fields because of underexposure to and lack of interest in the material as children (p. 53).

A viable means of exposure is presented in the free interactive Internet resource, "Science Games for Kids: Properties of Materials," available via the URL: www.sciencekids.co.nz/gamesactivities/material -properties.html (Figure 1). Simplistic instructions and activities quickly familiarize children with the basic properties (flexibility, strength, transparency, and waterproofing) and uses of materials (Figure 2). …

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