By Matt Levinson
As schools look for innovative ways to bring in STEM learning, here's a possible road map for how to galvanize a school community.
1. Organize a teacher research and development team to dig deep into STEM learning by having these teachers read widely on the topic, visit local businesses and industries engaged in STEM work to interview real-world practitioners to find out what students need to be successful in these fields. This group can be comprised of 6 to 8 people and can act as the steering group for beginning an exploration of STEM learning in a school community.
2. Have the team lead several faculty meeting times to have teachers engage in the conversation around STEM, and to explore and develop STEM-related learning experiences in classrooms. This creates a safe space for learning and experimentation and provides a feedback loop for teachers as they try to understand the components of STEM lesson and unit design.
3. Invite parents into the conversation by organizing parent focus groups around STEM careers. Find out among the parent body who works in a STEM field and mine their knowledge and expertise to identify the key core competencies essential for success in a STEM career.
4. Conduct curriculum reviews of science and math departments and take a close look at the Next Generation Science Standards to see where there are opportunities to incorporate STEM into the already existing curriculum. Overlay the NGSS standards on top of the existing curriculum and ask the hard questions about what is essential for STEM learning.
5. Have teachers visit other local schools to engage in conversations with other science and math teachers to figure out how best to begin to make inroads in STEM.
6. Bring an outside STEM expert to cast a lens on the existing science and math programs. It is always helpful to have an outsider's eyes on the internal workings of a school so that the school can learn more about itself and how to grow.
7. Invite guest scientists in to the school to conduct experiments with students and to talk about what it is like to work in a STEM field.
8. Through tools like Skype, have local scientists take students on a virtual tour of a laboratory and walk students through the stages of experimentation.
9. Begin to explore co-curricular opportunities to experiment with STEM, such as organizing clubs such as Tech Challenge, First Lego League Robotics, Python programming, Minecraft, Futures Problem Solving, Destination Imagination or Odyssey of the Mind to get kids excited about innovation, creativity, and STEM.
10. Have fun with STEM! The best part about STEM is that it is hands-on and exciting. Schools can lean into STEM and organize STEM fairs for the community to display and engage in projects and experiments. The key message for schools to send to its students and families is that schools are laboratories for learning.
Matt Levinson is the Head of the Upper Division at Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera, Calif. and the author of From Fear to Facebook: One School’s Journey.