Integrating STEM into the Elementary Classroom
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Integrating STEM into the Elementary Classroom

(music)>>Beth: I think a lot of people, they misunderstand what STEM is and they think it’s something that happens later in life but where it really starts is when children are very young, when they’re very curious about how the world works and…and what they can do within the world of objects. (music) Right now there’s a big push to do literacy um, everybody’s worried about getting enough literacy in. and in fact, i hear people say… “you have to learn to read before you can read to learn” Well, that’s true, but there are other ways of learning other than reading. A lot of teachers use management tools to… to keep kids occupied while they’re doing small group reading. So, what I found helpful for me as a first grade teacher… is to do my small group reading but then also have an area where I had library activities, and then I had STEM centers across the room… and I had several choices of STEM centers… and within those STEM centers we had we had pens and pencils and lots of paper that was available. We had white boards for them to write on. and in the act of their investigations they would call on the tools of literacy to document what they were thinking and learning. So there was practical application of literacy and a desire to learn the tools of literacy by giving them access to STEM. (music)>>Mrs. Watson: The STEM station is one of the stations in our classroom during literacy time and it’s full of literacy… um, oral communication, listening, um…being able to draw or write what you want to do. The way the room is set up is in different areas. I have an area where we can go for guided reading. I have an area for big group. We have individual tables where they can take materials to and sometimes we’ll do the iPads with our listening. and then we have the literacy station where they’re reading books to themselves, to a friend um, trying to pull in different ways to re-tell stories. We have the maker station area The STEM area…blocks… logos, k’nex, all those maker things that they can get in and manipulate with their hands. Because I can set centers up, I can have my guided reading time and really focus then on those small groups and the skills the kids really need at their level to be successful in all areas of their day. (music)>>Beth: A lot of times teachers are worried about children’s behavior. If you give them these open-ended centers what is going to happen? I would suggest that you create classroom rules about how could this…how could we work in the center in a safe way? and write those guidelines down in the children’s words themselves.>>Mrs. Watson: We’ve sat down as a group and we’ve talked about what’s important Why do you think we need…need, um…these agreements? Rather than rules, I like kids to kind of think of…um… those behavior type things as an agreement or expectations. Writing those things down with them…what it looks like, what it sounds like… …that really helps. This year we’ve used it a lot where if they have trouble with cleaning up We read through that social…it’s a social story…we read through our agreements. (music)>>Beth: If you’re trying to do STEM in your classroom I would suggest you start with just one very basic thing… something that’s pretty self-sustaining but that children get used to being autonomous they’re used to being on their own. Um, even if you can start with a bunch of LEGOS if you don’t have unit blocks bring in the LEGOS, bring in some plans and then talk about what they’re building and see if they can make some innovations on it. What is there for children to figure out? that should always be playing in your mind when you’re asking children to do something. (classroom noise)>>Mandie: And so you’re gonna want…they ball is gonna go here and here, and there. is what we’re hoping right? All right. When you’re ready, give it a try, I wanna see how this works. (classroom noise)>>Mandie: There ya go. (music)>>Beth: One of the things that I noticed as an educator over time as they engaged in these STEM experiences they started to view failures as an opportunity to learn and problem-solve and trouble-shoot. and they no longer felt ashamed when they made a mistake, it was just part of learning. I found that the problem-solving attitudes in the STEM centers empowered them in their literacy performance. I had one parent came up to me and said her son had just applied for mechanical engineering school and on his application was the question… “Tell us about your experience building with blocks as a child.” So, in higher ed they are starting to realize the importance of early experiences with STEM. And so, instead of waiting to start this until fourth and fifth grade, we need to continue what children are doing into preschool, and support it in kindergarten, first, second, third…all the way through school. Anytime you can get them in the act of physically doing things to figure things out, the better. (classroom noise)>>Student: push that back (wood clinking) (gasp)>>Student 2: Awww, it just made it! (laughter) (music) (music)

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