What is STEM education and why it matters?

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It is time to make STEM education accessible for all students.

Photo: Bigstock

The term STEM refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It is a group of academic disciplines that continues to grow as graduates of these fields have high demand in the labor market. The area has registered a growth of 17% according to the Department of Commerce in the United States.

The popularity of STEM fields has been so high in recent years that different variants of the term have begun to emerge: STEAM, for example, where "A" stands for the Arts. And ST2REAM where "T2" is for thematic instruction, "R" for Reading and "A" for Arts. Even so, the premise remains the same, making students learn about critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, innovation, research, collaboration, and leadership.

Currently, 20% of jobs worldwide come from STEM fields. In the U.S. only there are only 26 million STEM-related jobs, and they will continue to grow in the following years. In addition, the salaries of STEM graduates are generally higher than the average of all posts.

To understand why it is so necessary to teach these fields, it is important to deepen the role of the areas that comprise it. Starting with the "S" of science, it is a field that covers problems such as global warming, climate change, or health problems such as cancer or epidemics. The "T" of technology goes from computers to the digital age with Artificial Intelligence and programming. The "E" of engineering includes infrastructure, the design of buildings, cities, and bridges. Finally, the "M" of mathematics can cover fields ranging from economics, accounting, investments and taxes, analysts, and even cryptographers.

How to create STEM lessons?

  1. Including teamwork

    • Because STEM fields focus a lot on solving problems, a great way to include it in the classroom is through collaboration. It is essential to explain to students what the project will be about, give clear instructions and time to plan. A simple exercise for K-4 lessons is to create a paper chain in 10 minutes, using only two sheets of paper and tape and see which machine made the longest chain. This activity will help them learn how to use their resources and engineering skills.

    • One tip for teachers about how to qualify teamwork is to focus on how students use their skills to complete the collaborative exercise instead of grading the completion of the task itself. For example, provide students with a worksheet where each one explains their function and mark the critical elements in which they participated.

  2. Incorporate hands-on learning

    • Classes that involve any of the STEM areas must include research and exploration. The content should motivate the student to want to know more, to reach their conclusions and to design their investigations to apply what they discovered, developing critical thinking when discarding the information that does not support their analysis.

  3. Make relevant content

    • The biggest advantage of STEM education is that it involves issues that affect students in their day-to-day lives, so focusing the lesson on facts and real world problems can captivate them. In addition, understanding the problem and learning the basics can lead the student to innovate, which is another powerful skill employers seek.

  4. Turn mistakes into positive learning moments

    • When talking about failure in the classroom, teachers show that it is a necessary part of learning. One of the best things about STEM-related fields is that it allows for trial and error and is an opportunity to create and develop different solutions to problems.

  5. Be creative

    • Do not be afraid to add the "A" into STEM and transformed it into STEAM.

  6. Take advantage of the available tools

    • Many companies offer support to STEM lessons; Microsoft, in particular, has many different platforms to help the teacher.

    As technology evolves and advances, STEM education becomes increasingly crucial. By integrating it comprehensively in our courses, provides opportunities to prepare new generations to face the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.