The best approach for introducing elementary students to STEM? The scientific method
- Ed Tech: Focus on K-12 recently spoke with Christine Cunningham, director of the Boston Museum of Science's McGraw Prize-winning Engineering is Elementary STEM curriculum program, to find out more about how engineering can be taught to young students, tech's role in the curriculum, and best practices for incorporating the engineering design process into learning.
- Cunningham told the publication that teaching engineering at the elementary level requires educators to break engineering down to its core problem-solving aspects, which utilize the scientific method, and teaching students about the varying properties of different materials and how to consider them in a problem-solving context.
- Additionally, the curriculum looks at technology through a broader spectrum of the many human-created objects people use daily, and Cunningham says best practices for incorporating engineering into the classroom can start with simply standardizing a process for solving problems.
To fill gaps in the STEM workforce pipeline, schools will need to build student interest earlier, familiarizing them with concepts and processes before they reach middle and high school. The scientific method is a great starting point, providing the foundation for a better understanding of how solutions are reached in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
The approach also kills two birds with one stone, strengthening broader efforts to build much-needed critical thinking skills at a time when they're arguably more important than ever. Science and critical thinking both suffered a loss in prestige under the previous No Child Left Behind Act, which focused largely on achievement in reading and math. But with the Every Student Succeeds Act on the way in and calling for a more well-rounded approach to education, science and critical thinking could be poised for a comeback — and a focus on the scientific method at the elementary level could facilitate a cross-disciplinary approach to implementing problem-solving skills for younger learners.
- Ed Tech: Focus on K-12 Q&A: Christine Cunningham Proves Even Elementary Students Can Be Engineers
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