Kassie Winne

Two weeks ago I took my little sister, through Big Brothers Big Sisters, to the MiSci Museum of Innovation and Science. After we left, she told me she had never done anything like that, and my response was, “Go to a museum?” She told me that she hadn’t learned about how math and science related to real-world STEM problems. As a former teacher I was shocked. How had no one given her real-world problems for STEM projects?

“… the main reason more young people don’t pursue degrees in STEM is that they think STEM subjects are not useful for their careers (23%) or they think these subjects are too boring (12%).”

Keep Students Engaged With Real-World Problems for STEM Projects

We have to show students that there is a real connection between science, technology, engineering, and math (though the acronym STEM is sometimes represented as STEAM for arts). As teachers, how do help students connect with real-world stem problems.? The best way to make STEM learning engaging for students is to have it pertain to something that they are interested in.

Have students design their own questions. One of the things I did at the beginning of the year was a vision board for students. Everyone got their own piece of construction paper and dug through magazines for pictures. They used paper and images to make a board of questions that they wanted the answer to. Put students into groups and allow the groups to come up with curious questions about real-world steam problems.

Do an online search. The web has so many resources. Teachers are constantly hearing: “don’t reinvent the wheel”. Have your students engage with the internet and practice safe browsing strategies to find interesting STEM learning tools.

  • EVERFI offers a program called Hockey Scholar in which students learn about STEM concepts through the game of hockey. This provides data for teachers while encouraging rigorous STEM learning for students with differentiation already written into the modules.  Learn More

Criteria for Real-World STEM Problems

Once your students have had the opportunity to explore what they are interested in, you can review the questions they wonder using these criteria for real-world STEM problems.

  • Is the problem real? There has to be a wondering that is applicable to reality. As fun as it would be to test whether unicorns are real, this doesn’t ask anything pertaining to actual technology or engineering-driven wonderings.
  • Will students relate to this real-world stem problem? If we are using vernacular within questioning that already dissuades students from engaging in the STEM practice, it’s very likely students won’t be able to relate.
  • Is this doable? Part of the problem we have with engaging students in real-world STEM problems is the ability to research in class. As you determine what type of real-world STEM project or practice you will have students participate in, make sure there is a hands-on activity that encourages classroom engagement by tying into what they’re learning.
  • Are there multiple approaches to this? Can students learn and engage with one another regardless of their learning ability? Take out the idea of a right vs. wrong answer – have this instead be more exploratory for them.
  • Is there a design process? The scientific method is a great practice to refer to, however, this should also involve STEM skills and concepts in different ways. Everything doesn’t need to be integrated in the same degree, as long as students can see the interaction among them as they work through problems.

STEM & Career Readiness: Skills for Success in 21st Century

We don’t know what skills will be needed by the workforce of tomorrow, but we do know that some skills never grow old. EVERFI’s STEM and Career Readiness offers to activate the lifelong learner.

Online STEM Resources to Improve Classroom Engagement

As previously mentioned, EVERFI provides resources to teachers and schools at no cost, including the Future Goals: Hockey Scholar course sponsored by the NHL and NHLPA. EVERFI also offers Endeavor, a career exploration course that engages students in STEM learning concepts as they explore different careers.

The National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges provides challenges in four different categories: health, living, security, and sustainability.

For free STEM curricula check out the Boston Museum of Science engineering curriculum.

Kassie is currently the Schools Manager for Albany and Syracuse and started with EVERFI in 2017. As a former 2nd and 5th grade teacher, she lead her schools’ OLWEUS anti-bullying campaigns where she saw the need for social-emotional learning support. She received her Masters in Peace Operations from George Mason University in Washington, DC and attended Hartwick College for her Bachelors’ degrees in Political Science and History.

Real World Learning Matters

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