What is STEM Learning and Why is it Important?
by Matter & Form on May 21, 2019
STEM-based learning is a methodology that prioritizes four fundamental learning pillars: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And while it’s true that these subjects have always been taught in schools to some extent, a STEM curriculum takes a markedly different approach. Rather than teaching each discipline separately, STEM is a system that opts to integrate them into a single subject that focuses on hands-on learning and real-world application.
Practical applications of STEM learning can be found in all walks of life. Considering the vital ways in which these learning fields interact and intersect to shape our modern world, getting students accustomed and engaged with STEM from an early age is essential. With that, here’s a breakdown of why STEM learning is so important.
1. STEM Learning Helps to Develop Fundamental Skills
STEM is more than just a way to integrate science, technology, engineering and mathematics into a single subject. It’s also an excellent way to ingrain fundamental skills that students will need as they move from the classroom into the world. These skills include things like logic, reasoning, critical thinking and complex problem solving.
Of course, teaching each of these core subjects on their own still has the potential to build fundamental skills, but STEM removes the already-thin divide between these disciplines, allowing students to better see how they inform each other. As a result of this integration, students can develop their essential skills in a more comprehensive, intuitive setting. Even students who don’t end up moving into STEM-related academic or employment streams in later years can find major benefits in developing the higher-level learning skills that STEM prioritizes.
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2. STEM Learning Responds to Modern Educational Challenges
STEM learning strategies are an excellent way to address one of the main challenges for schools in the 21st century: what is the best way to prepare students to enter into a tech-driven society (and a workforce) that’s constantly changing and evolving? Moreover, given how technology is playing such a role in the lives of young students, what is the best way to implement these new technologies into the classroom? STEM-based curriculums can give educators the tools they need to keep students engaged and on track to navigate higher education and an employment landscape that looks drastically different than it did even a generation ago.
As educators try to prepare students for an unknown future, STEM programs recognize the importance of bringing the latest technology into the classroom. Making way for technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 3D scanning & printing and computer programming and coding will become crucial next steps in developing a STEM-rich education for students.
3. STEM Learning Can Help Students Positively Engage With The World Around Them
There’s no doubt that fields like science, technology, engineering and math can inspire students to learn more about the world. From outer space to cyberspace, there’s nothing that can’t be better or more richly understood by actively engaging with these core subjects. The true value of STEM lies in how it integrates these courses into one, allowing students to see the world around them through a more nuanced lens.
Better yet, a STEM education provides students with the foundational resources they need to positively interact with their environment. By integrating the study of engineering and technology with the study of say, the natural sciences, students will begin to intuitively understand the ways in which these fields are linked. Cloistering these crucial subjects in separate classrooms can often make the knowledge seem abstract and less applicable to everyday life; it’s what leads students to ask common questions like “when am I ever going to need algebra or the periodic table?”
To combat these all-too-common frustrations, STEM learning focuses on real-world, hands-on applications of these closely-connected subjects that students can find immediate value in. In a world where issues like globalization, climate change, human health and rapid technological changes are top-of-mind, STEM is a way to prepare, inspire and motivate students to face these unique challenges head-on.
4. STEM Learning is Hands-On, Engaging and Fun
Aside from the long-term advantages that STEM can have for students and educators, it can also be very beneficial to their experience of school on a day-to-day basis. STEM favours a more experiential type of learning, where students build their knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics through hands-on exercises. It’s a great way to improve curriculums that primarily consist of filling out worksheets and completing textbook exercises, as many students can easily become disillusioned with math and science through this approach. Instead of stifling things like creativity, visual based learning and tactile exercises, a STEM-based curriculum is one that both embraces and caters to different learning styles.
These hands-on activities will obviously vary depending on grade level, but the possibilities are numerous and the potential limitless. From exercises like science experiments and engineering bridges out of popsicle sticks to advanced exercises built around computer coding, 3D scanning, printing and modelling, STEM activities can enliven and enrich the classroom at any grade level.
Embrace STEM Learning in the Classroom Today
Integrating STEM-based learning into the classroom can have lasting benefits for both students and teachers. To find out more about 3D scanning technology, and how it can contribute to a well-rounded STEM education, visit our blog or browse our website today.