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What Is STEM?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. STEM is important because it pervades every part of our lives. Science is everywhere in the world around us. Technology is continuously expanding into every aspect of our lives. Engineering is the basic designs of roads and bridges, but also tackles the challenges of changing global weather and environmentally-friendly changes to our home. Mathematics is in every occupation, every activity we do in our lives.

Rather than teaching these subjects independently, STEM learning allows students to engage in all four content areas to address real world problems and solutions. This type of integrated teaching encourages independence, problem solving, and creativity. A curriculum that is STEM-based also teaches through real-life situations to help the student learn and relate. Programs like STEMScopes and Wonders integrate multiple subjects and provide for opportunities to show how concepts relate to life. STEM activities provide hands-on and minds-on lessons for the student.

What you might find in a STEM classroom

  • Students behaving as scientists: On a typical day, they may be recording observations, carrying out experiments, or conducting their own research. Learning is project-based and sometimes messy, but students learn by doing, not by rote memorization.
  • When teaching younger students: Teachers encourage observation, asking questions, and exploring things like how a basic piece of machinery works, like a stapler.
  • For Upper Elementary and Middles School: Curriculum includes project based learning and posing problems that students can relate to and can be solved in different ways. Students work together to provide evidence from their thinking. At this age, students are able to pull their knowledge from multiple subjects to arrive at a solution. A problem example would be posing the question: "What if a swarm of bees descends on a carnival. How would you solve the problem?"
  • Connecting STEM learning to a career: To help students understand what kind of STEM jobs are available, OMS is aiming to organize field trips that are STEM related and host speakers with STEM related occupations.
  • Integrating with other subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math subjects are woven into other areas of the curriculum, such as English Language Arts (ELA) and Social Studies or History.
  • Making use of technology: By taking quizzes on their laptops, entering data into spreadsheets, and creating graphs to illustrate the results of their experiments, students are using technology in their daily studies. OMS participates in one-to-one programs through which students are given use of their own individual Chromebook for their work (from grades 1-8).
  • Noise: Classrooms are not quiet and are often arranged so that students can sit and work in groups. This encourages collaboration as students discuss their work and challenge each other’s ideas.

How Are Arts & Humanities Incorporated Into STEM?

There’s no "I" in team. There’s also no "A" in STEM — until recently. Asking questions, using evidence, and working well with others to solve problems are not skills taught only in the “hard” sciences; excellent humanities and social science curriculums teach these tools as well. These courses engage students’ creativity and imagination. As such, there’s a growing movement to incorporate more arts and humanities subjects into STEM curriculum.