Teachers are always in search for ways to make STEM education more attractive for their students. It's well known that science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills are essentials for the 21st-century workforce, and yet a recent report co-authored by Let's Talk Science has shown that interest in these fields is continuing to decline among Canadian youth. Or more precisely:
"Many students don’t associate science courses with their own self-interest in furthering their general career prospects . . . Many students also don’t take science because they don’t want to 'go into science.' They don’t recognize what STEM can put into their toolbox."
Motivating greater engagement with STEM from early on in the education process is part of the key to addressing the gap between generally recognizing the importance of science and actually being willing to pursue STEM careers later in life. Having a combination of the right equipment and the right tactics can make all the difference. Here are three tips for ramping up student engagement in STEM learning.
"Experiential learning" is a way of putting the approach to education that shows students the concrete effects of science and gets them directly involved in experiments. Getting students engaged in co-operative projects, cultivating an interactive classroom setting and doing practical experiments to illustrate scientific principles are all recommended ways to engage learners in a hands-on process.
Getting Out of the Classroom
The value of field trips should never be underestimated. Taking students out of the classroom and showing them the impact of STEM fields in the real world can provide positive and memorable experiences that motivate their interest later, and that can reinforce lessons learned in class. Local science museums and tours of companies whose work is based on STEM principles can make for excellent field trip outings.
The Joys of Competition
Even in an educational culture that's wary of outright declaring "winners" and "losers" in any given cohort, it's unavoidably true that youth often thrive on competition. It gives them an opportunity to enjoy putting their skills and knowledge to work in a defined framework with a specific goal. Competition can be introduced in simple ways through activities like classroom "Jeopardy" quiz games, or it can take more involved forms like encouraging students to enter events like the FIRST Robotics Competition.