What is STEM?
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It isn’t a grouping of these subjects into one but an approach to learning and development that integrates the scientific, mathematic, and problem-solving skills that will assist students in the workforce.
The purpose of introducing STEM campaigns into the early-learning years is to lay foundations for a wide variety of soft skills: critical thinking, adaptability, problem-solving, teamwork, creativity, digital literacy and more.
Is STEM new to the school curriculum?
STEM is not exactly new. The term was introduced in 2001 by the US National Foundation, and of course, we know that many of these subjects have been taught for decades before 2001. What makes it seem new is the context of our modern world and the esteem that growing industries hold STEM qualifications to.
Why is it important?
Advances in technology are changing the way we interact, learn, connect – basically, how we live. While it might seem too far off to think about for Primary and early Secondary students, the fact of the matter is that employer demand for STEM qualifications and skills is high and will continue to increase in the future.
Currently, 75 per cent of jobs in the fastest growing industries require STEM skills, and 90 per cent of jobs will require people with STEM skills in the next two to five years.
STEM education is designed to help students gain skills required to succeed in the 21st-century job market. It gathers these subjects into a cohesive learning campaign based on real-world applications.
How is it applied in Early Learning?
During STEM projects, students need to interact with their team members, communicate their thoughts, and explore new ideas. Even when they’re working individually, the different parts of their brains are engaged which results in better memory, improved cognitive skills, and overall brain health.
The STEM process is guided by the Engineering Design Process.
- Ask – What is the problem? Are there any challenges?
- Imagine – Brainstorm ideas and pick the best one!
- Plan – Make a list of materials and draw a labelled diagram.
- Create – Follow your plan. Create a model if possible. Test it! Does it meet the goal?
- Improve – Did it work? Can you make it better? What could be done differently?
- Share – Is the problem solved? What changes need to be made? What do others think?
STEM education helps kids to develop these soft skills from childhood because it requires them to think through problems and find solutions. The importance placed on STEM and STEAM (plus Arts) learning in Australian education has become a national priority, with all of the States encouraging the program to be included in curriculums.
Images by Sebel Furniture and Schools Plus. Resources: CSIROScope (‘What is STEM?’), WA Department of Education (‘STEM in Public Schools‘), Queensland Government Education (‘Curriculum: Stages of Schooling‘), TeachStarter (‘STEM education in the classroom’)