By: Paul Mittura, Upper School Science
You get up on cold winter morning and the sparse clouds are beautiful reds, pinks, and oranges. Why? You are trying to head a soccer ball and can’t quite find the right place to be. Why? The breaker keeps tripping when you use your curling iron. Why? You are cleaning your bathroom and the new cleaner is making your eyes water and your throat scratchy. Why?
As a science teacher, people are constantly asking me why.
Most behaviorists would agree infants are born with innate reflexes like grasping, sucking, and blinking,but most behaviors are learned through exploration and experience. Most children will look at, pick up,and taste everything they can reach in their environment. As adults, we discourage the touching for fear of embarrassment and the tasting for obvious reasons. We encourage our children to explore in our predetermined “safety” filtered environment. This environment is usually inundated with the interests of the parents. For example if the parents are sports enthusiasts the toddler will be dressed in team apparel and every type of ball known will be in the playpen. We expose our children to what we know and like.
This behavior is both normal and expected.
As educators, it is incumbent upon us to introduce children to all disciplines. With STEM education, students are encouraged to explore the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Quality STEM educators can produce environments with “safety” parameters that allow each individual to experiment with disciplines they may not have had the opportunity to explore in a home environment. Early introduction is important for the formation of accurate concepts in a controlled environment with respect to the 4 disciplines. Continued exposure (grades 1-12) to these types of explorations is an important part of STEM instruction. One of the biggest obstacles for any educator is the dispelling of a misconception caused by misinformation or misinterpretation. Continually introducing STEM activities hopefully prevents these misconceptions from developing.
Now here comes the tough part. It is impossible for teachers to become “experts” in all areas of the educational process. Only through collaboration and pooling of resources to include expertise can pure STEM education be achieved. Vertical teaming (elementary and secondary teachers) and cross curricular teaming (science, math, English, social studies, fine arts, etc. teachers) is a good start. Ideally this would occur with each new unit,but as little as once each semester can capture a student for future studies in a discipline. This concept looks good on paper,but the logistics of moving teachers around and finding time for collaboration is a potential nightmare. Large group presentation is an option but is far less effective than single class presentations and hands on exploration. Regardless of the obstacles, STEM is a worthwhile endeavor. Capturing the interest of students is every educator’s goal and a school dynamic rich with STEM opportunities should be every institution’s goal.
To learn more about CA’s STEM program visit: https://clarksvilleacademy.com/stem/