STEM vs. PBL

Science is great! I love science!  Regarding all aspects of the world within which we live, science provides us with the knowledge of the properties that make up objects from the world that we can use to manufacture solutions and design products that make life easier. Hello, cell phones!  Society would agree, this is exciting stuff…

That being said, when students say that science is boring I can’t help but think of the Nature of Science.  What IS that?  What do they mean by “the nature of science”?  Even this description is on the overwhelming side.  Well, in a nutshell, it is the current way that science is expected to be taught.  Many, if not most, textbook publishing companies separate the “how” to do science from the actual knowledge of science in the first chapter or two of their textbooks; this includes tools used “to do” science, as well as abstract notions such as scientific thought processes such as various types of reasoning.  But, contrary to what current textbook publishes would have you believe, the scientific method is really not a study itself… it is it is WHAT we use TO study.  In other words, in reality, the “nature of science” is not a concept that should be treated as independent chapters of a book, but rather should be infused with the throughout the book to help students understand the “knowledge of science.”  Much of the terminology that is used to teach “reasoning” methods are abstract ideas and pose very real challenges understanding, and must be taught within specific context.  They require context clues within the discipline, as well as real-world problems and applications.

Without the meaning of context, the “Nature of Science” comes off as dry and boring material.  And, for that reason alone, I can totally relate to student sentiments and have come to the conclusion that IT is the reason why students must think ‘science is boring.’  “Natures of Science” needs to die a horribly bloody death just as mush as “STEM.”

I think this is why I must highly enjoy project-based learning (also known as “PBL”) so much.  Further, I feel like the reality of what STEM actually is provides the context/structure for PBL, which then also naturally lends itself to cover multiple teaching standards in one lesson.

I recently fell into an opportunity teaching middle school STEM that inspired this mini-piphany of teaching STEM in everyday science.  Maybe it’s just my wishful thinking, but I really do hope that this way of thinking of STEM catches on in the general public.  If so, maybe my dream that all people will understand and respect the earthly place they call home will come true.

Just remember… PBL is STEM.  STEM IS PBL.

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