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What is STEM Education? Detailed Explanation Here

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STEM-Education is an innovative approach to learning that is rapidly gaining popularity. What is STEM, and why is it confidently replacing the traditional educational model? Advantages and disadvantages of the new methodology for modern schoolchildren explained in this article by our expert!

 

STEM is one of the most talked about trends in school education. In just a couple of decades, the STEM approach has spread throughout the world. American, Canadian, British, European and Asian schools are introducing STEM into their curricula. What fundamentally distinguishes STEM from the traditional model of education? With you, today we will figure out what is behind the fashion trend, and whether it is worth taking it into service!

The concept of STEM

The acronym STEM has its origins in the United States. The concept came into use in the early 2000s. The US Science Foundation gave the name STEM to a new trend, the purpose of which was to develop technical education in the country. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math or Natural Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

STEM is based on the study of disciplines not as separate subjects, but as a whole. The student is called upon to see the interrelationships of subject areas and the big picture, to find complex and global solutions to problems.

In the US, STEM is part of the educational policy and aims to fill the shortage of qualified workers.

Along with the concept of STEM, there is also its analogue STEAM, where the complex of subjects also includes the humanities (“A” stands for Arts).

STEM education at the school and university levels is now possible not only in the US, but also in the UK, Switzerland, Germany, Singapore, Japan and other countries.

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A new approach to education

The combination of applied and theoretical skills that underlies the STEM approach provides an opportunity to gain deeper knowledge and provides a global vision of the disciplines studied.

Basic principles of STEM: interdisciplinarity, innovativeness, creativity, applied application of acquired knowledge, critical thinking.

Each element of the system is responsible for the development of certain skills:

  • Science (Natural sciences) – explains the laws of the surrounding world, which the child is faced with from birth;
  • Technology (Technology) – gives experience in applying the acquired knowledge in real life;
  • Engineering (Engineering) – teaches to experiment, work with resources and materials;
  • Math (Mathematics) – develops logic and algorithmic thinking.

The STEAM approach also includes the Arts direction (Art, Humanities), which is responsible for understanding the socio-historical context and successful communication with people.

Unlike previous generations who studied each discipline separately and often simply did not understand why they needed this or that knowledge, today’s children who study in accordance with the principles of STEM clearly see the logical connections between subjects and know how to apply the acquired skills in practice and look for solutions to real problems.

A common practice in STEM is project activity. For example, high school students might be working on building a greenhouse to grow vegetables. Knowledge of biology will be required to select a plant and determine the optimal conditions for growing it. Technology, engineering and the laws of physics will be needed to design and manufacture a greenhouse, chemistry will help in the selection of fertilizers, and mathematics is necessary for calculations. In addition to applying the acquired knowledge, children will learn how to work in a team, effectively distribute roles in a team, prioritize tasks and take stock.

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Advantages and disadvantages of STEM education

The STEM approach provides an excellent fundamental education. Regardless of whether the child chooses a STEM-related specialty in the future, the acquired skills will certainly be useful in building a successful career.

The main advantages of STEM education:

  • The educational process is more exciting (compared to the traditional one) and is associated with adventure. Designing a garbage collector using robotics or creating an automated weather station are possible project options for high school students;
  • Analytical and critical thinking develops. Children don’t just absorb information, they learn to analyze and question sources;
  • The STEM approach makes the exact sciences interesting for everyone, and not just for children with pronounced abilities;
  • From childhood, schoolchildren receive the skills of teamwork and polite, supportive communication, build healthy relationships in a team;
  • Innovation. Children work with modern technologies and keep abreast of the latest achievements;
  • Project activity with tangible results gives satisfaction from learning and generates the conviction that the world can be changed, and the actions of each individual person are important.

Of course, STEM education is not for everyone. So, an obvious disadvantage for creatively gifted children will be insufficient attention to the development of creative skills. Music, performing arts, and painting are only marginally present in STEM programs. By and large, STEM trains high-class modern engineers with a global vision of processes.

The programs are relatively new, most teachers have not studied STEM methods and are forced to retrain. In addition, final school exams and entrance exams to universities are still tailored to traditional educational formats.

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STEM at home

What to do if the school does not provide STEM education, and you really want to develop your child in the engineering direction? There are many opportunities for homework. It will be most effective to focus on what your child is interested in.

For example, for a boy who is interested in cars, building a LEGO car model can be the first step into the world of car building! It is important to build connections with the topics studied at school, deepen knowledge and develop additional skills. In the example with the LEGO constructor, it might look like this:

  • Go to an exhibition of vintage cars and see what cars were produced in that historical period that the child is currently studying at school;
  • Understand what elements exhaust gases consist of, and how much oxygen an average car consumes;
  • Invite the child to build a model of several streets, learn the basic rules of the road and lay the path of the model of the car, taking into account the learned traffic rules

As you can see, with well-thought-out logical links, the child dives deeper into the topic, receives additional interdisciplinary knowledge, and, most importantly, does it with enthusiasm and pleasure!

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