There is a new buzz word in town called “STEM,” but what does it really mean? Just as other catch phrases or words can take on various meanings, the definition of “STEM” or how STEM looks like in the classroom has also taken on various descriptions.
The book-ends of STEM are easy to define as “Science” and “Math” content, but defining the components in the middle gets a little tricky. Let’s look at “Technology”, for instance. Nowadays, when people hear the word “technology,” they think of computers or other electronic devices. However, technology is simply referred to as the tools and machines that are used to solve real-world problems. Yes, this includes electronic devices such as computers and tablets, but it can also include devices such as microscopes, hand-lenses, hammers, and even a spoon!
The last component of STEM we need to define is “Engineering.” Simply put, engineering is the practical application of science and math to solve problems. Some people view engineering as the manufacturing of products, but the solution to a problem could also be a process that is created. For example, creating a better traffic flow pattern through the cafeteria is an engineering task.
So how do we put it all together in the classroom? Simple. We teach the content of science and math and have students apply that content knowledge to solve a real-world problem, using technology.
By: Kristen Keenan, CA BOCES Learning Resources