How to make it all fit together
STEM education, the one ring to rule all of K-12 teaching and learning, is seen as key to workforce and competitiveness challenges, important cognitive capabilities, and even citizenship in this still-new century.
As much as we believe in the efficacy of STEM education as a concept, figuring out exactly how to make it serve the needs of individual STEM-interested students can be hard.
For students to make good decisions about future courses of study and work, they need:
- specific information applicable to their unique abilities and preferences.
- help from teachers and parents to sift among the dozens of STEM majors and hundreds of STEM careers available.
- timely guidance at critical decision-making junctures when their choices start to define the options open to them in college and the workplace.
Big news to come
Next week, we will be very excited to announce the launch of a project that seeks to meet all these needs. It’s a different kind of product, available in a different kind of way, for different kinds of uses than our current line of books and materials on engineering.
Where to go now
For now, we’ve gathered a set of resources, available for free online, that can help students, parents, and teachers make sense of STEM education and how it can fit into and extend their teaching and learning environments. The resources come from varied sectors of the STEM stakeholder community – government, non-profits, and education – and all present comprehensive materials relevant to all K-12 audiences.
From the government, here to help
These three National Science Foundation activities take different angles of approach to STEM education work:
- Successful STEM Education is dedicated to highlighting “promising practices and tools” for K-12 STEM education. It includes STEM Smart Workshops held around the country, examples of model programs, and STEM Smart Briefs, some of the most accessible, useful points of entry you will ever find into nitty-gritty issues to do with STEM education.
- The Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education, or CADRE, is a network of researchers and practitioners working on STEM education inside and outside formal school environments. The project website collects all kinds of work products, exchanges, program information, and follow-up resources. It has something for anyone, no matter what role they play in K-12 STEM.
- STELAR, or the STEM Learning and Research Center, is focused on connecting STEM education experiences and students’ readiness to participate in the STEM and IT workforce. Finding your way to relevant project or resource information can be a bit trickier than on the other two websites, but the focus on articulating learning with workforce readiness can make it worth the effort for people working in this space.
Non-profits at work
In different ways, these non-profit efforts work to create fertile environments for STEM learning to take place among their constituent communities:
- The National Science Teachers Association, as you’d expect, features a wealth of educational resources, including a wide-ranging blog series on The STEM Classroom. The piece, though, that recently jumped out at us as particularly intriguing is NSTA’s Best STEM Books for K-12 project. The list is not even out yet, but the history and framework for STEM education laid out in the tease are spot-on. And the list of books is sure to be worth full, close attention.
- The STEMx network consists of 21 state-based STEM hubs, meant to promote local- and state-based STEM education activities. The Washington STEM network is a great example of how these hubs work, making the case for STEM, connecting like-minded people in the field for collaboration, and mobilizing resources with need and efficiency in mind.
- The STEM Ecosystems project works to connect and leverage the many, varied types of actors in STEM education. Based on the idea that STEM learning takes place in many places in many ways, the effort provides funding to 27 cross-sector STEM learning collaborations across the country. These collaborations include in-school and out-of-school programs, science centers and museums, and other informal learning efforts, and the money comes from 20 education-focused private and corporate foundations.
You know, for the teachers
University-based STEM resources tend to feature especially robust resources for teachers. Every teacher in the country is probably close to high-quality campus-based STEM help. Lesson plans, interesting reflections and thoughts from teachers themselves, and links to well vetted collections of classroom materials make these three higher education websites especially useful:
- Purdue’s STEMEdhub is a work in progress, but already the Teaching Materials section is rich in immediately useful resources.
- GoSTEM at Georgia Tech has abundant on-site and linked resources in diversity, pedagogy, resources, and professional development.
- The Center for STEM Learning at the University of Colorado offers teacher resources in that emphasize themes of transformation and innovation. Especially interesting is the range of voices and approaches to teaching STEM topics you can find.
What online STEM resources do you like? Any to add in our categories here? Please do share.
And stay tuned for exciting news next week about our own STEM education project.
Eric Iversen is VP for Learning and Communications at Start Engineering. He has written and spoken widely on engineering education in the K-12 arena. You can write to him about this topic, especially when he gets stuff wrong, at email@example.com.
You can also follow along on Twitter @StartEnginNow.
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