Wednesday, June 14, 2017

STEM is NOT a Dirty Word!

STEM has been an educational buzzword over the last few years and, unlike many similar acronyms, I think this one has not only value, but staying power as well.  The problem many humanities teachers raise seems to result from fear or frustration.  Is STEM out to conquer the humanities and subjugate the disciplines that lend education soul? How do you teach STEM and still keep your soul?

I led a workshop a couple of days ago on integrating STEM into the humanities curriculum (while keeping your soul).  Most of the attendees were upper elementary and middle school Social Studies and ELA teachers, with an administrator thrown in.  We discussed what STEM is, how a colleague and I blended it with American History to create our own hybrid, and a basic model for designing lessons with STEM in mind.

One takeaway from my conversations with teachers is that there is a great deal of confusion about the purpose of STEM-education and how it can cooperate with courses like English and History.  As a diehard believer in liberal-arts education and a proponent of STEM-integration, this is an issue I want to prioritize throughout the next year.

Below are the slides from the workshop, but to provide a brief summary:

  • STEM is not the accumulation of a "toy box" of technology. It is a mindset shift.
  • STEM is not the enemy of the humanities. 
  • Chances are, you are already teaching elements of STEM in your course.
  • STEM can hook students without sacrificing educational rigor.
  • Students at every grade level and ability can benefit from STEM-integration.
  • The "tool" (technology) should be the last piece in planning STEM-integration.
  • A simple model for adding STEM: start with your standard, learning target, etc., create an essential question, and then bring in resources to support that question through the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

RCET Workshop 2017: STEM in the Humanities from mshomakerteach

I'm sharing a sample unit our 7th grade Social Studies, ELA, STEM, and Science departments collaborated on this year: Yellow Fever 1793. 

Hopefully, this will give you an idea of the possibilities and the freedom that comes from opening your humanities course up to new directions and influences.  Follow the blog as I provide more experiments in STEM-integration throughout the year.


Do you incorporate the STEM fields into your humanities discipline?  If so, how?  If not, what has kept you from trying?

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