STEM is a big buzz word being thrown around the education field at the moment. It can mean a gamut of things, but at its core STEM is a way to teach students occupationally relevant material. STEM is a way for teachers to reach kids that don’t necessarily want to go the traditional four year university route and showing them that they can just as easily find meaning in a trade such as electrical engineering, water quality testing, or building inspection.
At the NSTA Convention here in Seattle I was fortunate enough to go to two very different sessions based around STEM. The first was a workshop where we were put into groups of eight and given a handful of lessons to read through in order to decide whether or not they were project-based learning(PBL) or just an activity. Each group came up with similar rankings and definitions. The key points being that PBL must be an inquiry based, have real world relevance, and is a collaboration project. Here in Seattle we have the Aviation High School and the workshop had a few of the teachers with their lessons for us to use; connecting us back to the idea of how to incorporate STEM and PBL in one fell swoop. At the end of the workshop we were given a CD with several of the lessons that were shared.
The other STEM related talk was a project I have been involved with for a few months here at SEP. Jeff Shaver has been working hard to find ways to get kids involved with flow cytometry. He’s been working closely with Washington STEM and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research to slow work towards the goal of getting high school students involved and excited about flow cytometry and the real scientific applications. At the talk he presented a video produced by Washington STEM that does a great job of showcasing his work.
Both courses did a great job of really fleshing out what STEM is and how it can be applied in many different ways. I’m excited to see where PBL and STEM take us in 2012 and beyond.