Educators Discuss Integrating STEM Education Throughout Curricula

BALTIMORE–Science, technology, engineering and math, better known as the STEM fields, need to be integrated throughout a child’s education to be most effective.

That was the the key takeaway at the “Shattering Silos: Implementing Interdisciplinary Learning” breakout session at the U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference.

Panelists included Doug Moore, vice president of digital education strategy and business development at the New York Hall of Science; Greg Pearson, scholar at the National Academy of Engineering; Amy Sabarre, PK-12 STEM coordinator at Harrisonburg City Public Schoools; and William Wolfe, chair of the engineering department at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

Erica L. Green, an education reporter at The Baltimore Sun, moderated the event, with help from Michael Morella, associate editor at U.S. News.

Moore discussed the work done by professionals at the New York Hall of Science, a science museum, to get kids excited about STEM. One recent exhibit is “Connected Worlds,” an interactive ecosystem where kids can explore systems thinking in a playful way.

But when it comes to STEM education, many people think of science and math, and technology and engineering are often forgotten, said Pearson, of the National Academy of Engineering. And that has implications on the future of STEM education, since the subjects are often thought of individually.

There is a need for experts in each of the STEM fields, he said. But in the real world, the boundaries between the STEM fields are porous, and not isolated from one another, he said.

Pearson presented findings from a 2014 report on integrated STEM education. The committee who worked on the report found integration in education needs to be explicit and students and teachers need to have interdisciplinary knowledge in order to have a chance to effectively integrate across disciplines.

Sabarre, of Harrisonburg City Public Schools, discussed how her district infuses STEM education into the curriculum from elementary through high school. Ituses the engineering and technological design process to intentionally teach science and math.

At the elementary level, it uses a curriculum they created and if teachers report it isn’t working, they make changes.

Here’s one example of an elementary lesson for Harrisonburg students: In fourth grade, students complete a project on wacky weather. They learn the basics about the weather and design a house, but the teachers throw them a curveball midway through.

Teachers inform the students severe weather is on the way and the students have to redesign their home to prepare for the storm. The project includes content on measurement, using data, writing and more.

“The key piece for us is that students, when they see the connections between disciplines, they go, ‘Oh, OK, this is why I need this. This makes sense to me,'” she said.

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