Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back to School: Be STEM Ready

You want to be STEM ready this year but getting together all of the resources - like, say a brand new multi-million dollar facility, STEM-prepared training for your staff and a plethora of STEM materials to name a few - can be tricky to say the least. But there's good news: your school is not alone. Go ahead and categorize yourself with all of the other schools doing everything they can to just get this STEM thing off the ground.

Nevertheless, Anne Jolly shows you how you can ramp up for some great STEM learning by following advice gathered from educators who have been teaching STEM classes successfully for several years. Let's get started!

As Jolly explains, prepare yourself for a noisy classroom where multiple right answers abound and failure is regarded as a positive step toward discovery and successful solution. You'll need to get ready for your kiddos to work closely together, using hands-on methods to solve real-world problems. This also means being willing to take a step back and give your students enough room to kick off their journey toward becoming creative, innovative, critical thinkers. 

Take a look at this checklist of five questions that your school needs to consider to get ready for their STEM adventure.
  1. Does everyone know why the school is implementing STEM and what STEM is designed to accomplish?
  2. What type of STEM program will your school implement initially and what do you want this program to become?
  3. How will you prepare and support teachers? What do teachers know/need to know, and how will they learn it?
  4. What will your school do about STEM curriculum?
  5. What resources are available?
Jolly cites answers to all five questions in her article on KQED's blog, Mind Shift. She even offers up multiple reasons or answers per question to make it easy for you to find one that applies to your school's situation. Check them out here.

In short: your school can be STEM-ready as long as you have a starting point and a long term goal. Jolly reminds us that the STEM initiative will keep growing with some visionary leadership. That being said, a knowledgeable and supportive school principal is the most important driver behind a STEM initiative. 

Another great Jolly suggestion: get a group of extra supportive parents to form a STEM booster club.