The first step in improving Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) in our classrooms is to find evidence of its existence.
S.T.E.M. currently suffers from the Sasquatch Syndrome. People have heard of S.T.E.M. just like they have heard of Bigfoot, but they’ve never actually seen either.
Two years ago, I taught Masters level Elementary Math and Science methods courses. One night, I asked the class of preservice teachers currently student teaching what I thought was an innocent question. I asked, “Tell me about how science is approached in your school?” The students looked around nervously for a moment and then shared observations like the following:
- We are supposed to do science after testing season.
- The science teacher is on maternity leave.
- Nobody knows where the key to the science materials is.
- Our school is focusing on numeracy and literacy.
- Science is supposed to happen on Mondays, but we have had a lot of holidays.
You get the idea…
Not a single student teacher working in several dozen Southern California elementary schools could cite a single incident of science being taught. Forget about engineering or computer science.
After all, it’s not like little kids are curious or enjoy exploring the world around them. You couldn’t possibly teach reading or language arts in a scientific context, right?
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.