To hook kids on the excitement of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) you must not only engage them via meaningful hands-on classroom experiences, but engage them early and often, says noted outreach expert and engineering educator Elizabeth Parry.
With more than 15 years working in K-12 and higher education environments to inspire young learners in science and engineering, Elizabeth is coordinator of STEM Partnership Development at The Engineering Place in North Carolina State University's College of Engineering.
"If you really want students to learn STEM, teach them not with facts, figures and textbooks primarily but by doing," Elizabeth tells K-12 teachers. This hands-on, inquiry-based approach, she adds, gives kids the opportunity to experience learning outside traditional textbook methods by engaging their senses to look at, probe, touch, listen to, inquire, and even use their sense of smell during the discovery process. Plus, it's fun.
The key is to integrate the hands-on approach early, she says. Increasingly, children are deciding on those subjects that they like and dislike (and therefore what they will potentially do well in and not do well in) as early as elementary school. "And research suggests that females in particular -- although they may start out liking science and math and are quite skilled in these subjects -- lose interest in these subjects in mid-elementary school under traditional curriculum approaches," says Elizabeth. "Students simply want to understand "why" they are learning what they are, and how it can be used in the world. Integrated engineering provides that answer."
Can you suggest some hands-on classroom activities that would increase students' interest in STEM?
Read more about AT&T sponsored Nifty Fifty program speaker Elizabeth Parry here.