By Jeni Wilson
It seems like STEM is the new black! This article answers FAQ’s, (frequently asked questions), about STEM.
What does it really mean?
STEM stands for Science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Why is STEM important?
STEM empowers individuals with the skills to succeed and adapt to this increasingly complex, changing, technological world. STEM is intended to lead to innovation necessary to sustain our economy. This innovation and science literacy depends on a solid knowledge base in the STEM areas.
STEM is important because it pervades every part of our lives. Science is everywhere in the world around us and is used to impact people and every living thing on earth.
There are multiple reasons why STEM skills are considered more important than ever. Here’s just some of them:
- 21st century challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy create an imperative to develop STEM skills;
- STEM skills help to bridge the ethnic and gender gaps sometimes found in math and science fields;
- The global economy is changing;
- STEM Skills and qualifications are considered essential to Australia’s productivity and beyond;
- Current jobs are disappearing due to automation;
- New jobs are emerging as an outcome of technological advances;
- The continual advances in technology are changing the way students learn, connect and interact every day;
- STEM Skills are critical to school success and life;
- Employer demand for STEM qualifications and skills is high;
- 75 percent of jobs in the fastest growing industries require workers with STEM skills; (Western Australia Dept of Education)
- STEM occupations are growing. They are nearly double that of other occupations;
- The wage for STEM jobs is about 70% more than the national average
- In 20 years 80% of jobs will require technical skills. (US Bureau of Statistics)
What are STEM skills?
STEM skills relate subject specific skills in science, mathematics, and engineering to generic skills and dispositions.
This list may vary slightly, but the following skills and dispositions are generic and frequently cited in references related to STEM:
- Inquiry Skills
- Critical analysis
- Teamwork and collaboration.
- Digital literacy
- Problem solving
(See https://stem.getintoenergy.com/stem-skills-list/ and Western Australia Department of Education)
What are some easy to implement resources for STEM?
There are limitless opportunities to practise STEM skills and learn about STEM concepts when engaging in free or structured play. STEM activities and lessons should be child led and help children learn how to use these skills in the real world.
The Nüdel Kart is a deconstructable mobile playground that can be used in or out of the classroom to help support STEM learning.
How does it do this?
Nüdel Kart is a mobile play kart that can be reconfigured in endless ways to encourage self-directed learning. It contains research-backed specially selected materials to stimulate children’s development.
Nüdel Kart supports educational approaches, such as inquiry that aim to develop skills increasingly in demand in our rapidly changing world. It is designed for children of all abilities and allows all children to adapt the kart to their needs. For children 3-12 years, it engages up to 30 children at a time.
Nüdel Kart provides a tool with loose parts that promotes problem solving and creativity. This helps teach all the principles of STEM and then it can also be used to aid in STEM curriculum and support many aspects of the curriculum.
The following are some examples that link to the curriculum. See the Manual for more details.
Build a tower/bridge
Students use engineering principles to build a tower or a bridge. They can experiment with ways to increase or decrease friction and experiment with force. Measurement with informal and formal units is possible.
Make a Machine
Students use design and technologies as well as creative thinking. Decide what machine your school or community could use most. Make the machine out of the Nüdel Kart. Add more recycled materials to your design, such as cardboard or containers.
Other ideas include:
- Students can trade loose parts,
- Set up a shop and EFTPOS,
- Build a simple telephone,
- Create an obstacle course,
- Make vehicles or moving things,
- Construct a city or town… and so much more
All of these and more are explained in the Nüdel Kart Manual.
To find out more about the Nudel Kart follow this link.
How do the Arts fit in?
Of course, there’s also The Arts making it STEaM… but let’s leave that for another time.
Engineering for kids, (2016). https://www.engineeringforkids.com/about/news/2016/february/why-is-stem-education-so-important-/
Sewell, C. Wilson, J. Laing, B. and Veerman, M. (2020) Nudel Kart Teacher Manual.
Seven awesome facts about STEM education https://visual.ly/community/infographic/education/7-interesting-facts-about-stem-education Get into energy. Get into STEM. https://stem.getintoenergy.com/stem-skills-list/
What is STEM? Western Australia Department of Education https://www.education.wa.edu.au/what-is-stem