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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The Reason “STEM” Just Needs to Go Away

Yea, that’s right I said it.  Allow me to explain myself, but first let’s take a step back…img_20160923_061446

Can I just say how much I HATE buzz words?!  I don’t mind clichés so much, though.  They can actually be massively entertaining to mess around with (sometimes).  But buzzwords… they just irk me and make my eyes twitch.

I was thinking about the current state of education
when this thought came to mind.  I feel like the field of education has been reduced to nothing but
buzzwords.  I mean when it becomes such an item of jargon, it eventually loses its meaning.  Society uses them to convey a particular thought, but without continual definition and context it becomes used incorrectly.  Accuracy matters… and anything otherwise can deter us from the initial goal.

The chief item of current fashion to blame for my musing, as well as volition to vomit, is STEM.  For those folks who have been living under a rock, STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  I suppose the reason it frustrates me so much is because of how widely misunderstood it is.stem-kid-be-like  So many people that I know, so many parents, and even many educators see it as a discipline where kids learn about computers, electronic devices, and code all day.  As if all there is to technology  is computers and such. From my observations, it’s almost like they have no clue that STEM is even an acronym at all, and that it’s something that their child MUST be involved in to be anything remotely successful.  This idea of success is totally not true.  Or, at least, not true in the way these parents perceive it to be.

Really, technology is anything that seeks to make life better.  Fire is technology.  Band aids, file folders, pens and pencils, and even the Crayola pack with the attached sharpener are all examples of technology.  People take for granted many of these little things because they have become such useful tools that they couldn’t imagine better solutions.  And that’s fine.  Because technology doesn’t have to seek to solve just large-scale problems; it’s all about solving ANY problem to advance our lifestyles.  However, it is also only a SINGLE component of STEM.  Science (and Math) are really what are at the heart of engineering new technologies.  I mean, let’s take a look at the etymology of the word ‘science.’  It is derived from the Latin word ‘sciri’ (hmmm… I wonder if this is where the idea for a certain Apple product’s name came from) which means ‘knowledge.’  There is so incredibly much to ‘know’ about in this world besides the natural things that give the textbook definition of the word.

That having been said, referring to the academic discipline of science, it is what provides us with the knowledge of the characteristic properties that make up Earthly objects that are used to design solutions and manufacture products that make our lives more enjoyable.  At  the heart of solving problems, we have to know about where to get the materials that will best suit those solutions we seek to find.  Science guides us as to which resources to use to best suit our design goals.  And THIS is what I wish more people would know about that buzz word.  Because you know what?  It really is GREAT!

What makes STEM so great is that it really is how science should be taught.  It is the missing practical relevance that kids are craving when they say that they hate science or that science is boring.  I just really hate the misunderstood ‘buzz word’ aspect, but it actually is a great concept.  So let’s let “STEM” die a bloody, horrible death.  Make it go away.  I call for a revolution!  A new way of teachin? Perhaps, simply a name change?  My suggestion?  Let’s just call it “the correct way to teach science.”  Okay, lets’ go!

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An approach to STEM I actually don’t mind… #butforrealthough