5 Ways to Engage More Students in STEM

kidfrogOn Wednesday, August 15, the#BackToSTEM Tweet Chat explored strategies, ideas and resources that promote STEM learning throughout the summer and school year. Based on comments, questions, and insights from Tweet chat participants, we devised the list below. 

Share your thoughts and ideas about this list, promote and share your opportunities! We'd love to hear about strategies, resources, recruitment materials, particularly in regard to how you've engaged girls in STEM. 

 1. Get youth excited about STEM learning. Transform STEM learning from dry, textbook-heavy subjects to something that is engaging and lively. Get outside the textbox! Use project-based learning, group work, innovative tasks, and tech to stir interest in a topic. This can include:

  • Learning by exploring. Doing something messy, loud, and hands-on; designing and engineering challenges that engage the kids in an activity.
  • Going outside. Getting the kids aware of their environment by taking them on field trips.
  • Starting with a project which has extension all year round in all topics. They'll feel such accomplishment in June!
  • Building apps, making youtube videos and podcasts, designing websites. Have students participate in technology development instead of technology consumption.

Need some ideas for experiments? Here are 52 science experiments you can do at home.

2. Incorporate STEM into other afterschool activities. Too often, STEM is siloed within its traditional subject areas – chemistry, biology, math – even though it’s easy to highlight the pervasive nature of these subjects in everyday life. There are many opportunities to integrate STEM in existing programs.

  • Combine STEM and service-learning can enable youth to find real solutions to the problems in their community. (TERC Mixing in Math.)
  • Get students outside while the weather is still nice and incorporate fitness with physics and bio lessons.
  • Use real world examples in non-STEM classes such as reading or nutrition. Even a mention of the science in the Olympics and sports can challenge STEM stereotypes.
  • Think like a scientist. Building class culture & collaboration with design challenges. Inspire students’ curiosity and natural knack for scientific inquiry.

3. Talk to youth about careers in STEM. Almost all jobs now require some form of scientific literacy. Having a basic foundation of STEM skills ensures economic justice and security for students, their families and their communities. However, it’s important to frame these concepts in terms students understand, in a way that inspires their natural curiosity and self-motivation.

How can you do this?

  • Draw a connection between job titles and career content. (Women at NASA tells stories of women in aerospace.)
  • Find out students’ interests through conversations and then discuss STEM careers. Conversations are often more productive than lectures.
  • Dispel stereotypes. Many youth think STEM equates to a scientist in a lab. Draw a scientist activity is a great conversation starter and opportunity to show the vast range of STEM professionals.
  • Connect with local universities. Seeing young adults in their still mid-career-journey helps STEM subjects become more relatable and accessible.

4. Incorporate scientists into your activities. Having scientists tell their STEM journey showcases STEM as a personal endeavor rather than simple school subjects.

Where can you connect with scientists?

  • FabFems.org is a great resource to find female STEM professionals to feature in your classroom.
  • Let people know what a real scientist looks like through Looks Like Science.
  • Scientific American’s 1,000+ scientists.
  • TechBridge: Students & role models prep to meet each other for more impact.

Don’t have time to connect in person?

  • Use Skype or Google Hangout to feature a STEM professional in your classroom
  • There are many clips and videos of real scientists:

5. Professional Development: use online resources to help develop a successful STEM experience for your students.

  • Use Skype or Google Hangout to feature a STEM professional in your classroom.
  • Attend training sessions whenever possible. Regardless of experience, everyone has something to learn and something to offer. Professional development can offer new insight into how to successfully implement a specific curriculum or lesson plan.Become well versed in educational philosophy. Emphasizing the process through teaching theory such as project based learning or inquiry can boost confidence in teaching STEM. The process is as important as the end result. (Not sure where to start? See Audrey Watter’s 
  • latest post.)
  • Watch videos on YouTube. They are infinite and informative.