Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) represent foundational subjects of the British education curriculum, yet, in a 2017 analysis, just 23% of STEM jobs in the UK were held by women. These subjects should not be gender-exclusive or seen as being an inappropriate domain for students who aren’t boys. The reasons are varied and subject to much debate, but the core goal of engagement with all students is creating an environment that places emphasis on teaching approaches that excite and educate.
The most important aspect of any lesson plan is to inspire. So, with that in mind, focus on plans which are fun, yet can instill in your students an appreciation for STEM subjects and how they can play a major role in their lives. There are plenty of tips out there that can give you a fantastic springboard for formulating fun lesson plans. For younger students, there are also a range of activities listed at sites like PlaydoughtoPlato. Always remember, whatever STEM subject you’re teaching, a career is available to everyone, regardless of their gender or background. Let’s take a look at each specific subject.
Science can seem, to students, too dependent on complex ideas, but the subject is a perfect platform for demonstrative teaching and nurturing curiosity. You can teach the periodic table using “Colourful Hydrogen Balloons,” or even use custard to explain states of matter. Emphasising how science impacts students’ day-to-day lives and making it more accessible, whether with Lego or food, is more important than reeling off of facts and figures from the get-go. While memorisation is important, hands-on activities help students learn much better. When you do discuss facts and statistics, make sure your information is current to keep it relevant to your students.
One of the basic forms of technological development is coding. While coding can seem daunting, there are a plethora of enjoyable activities that will equip students with the tools needed to succeed at all age levels. Above all, mould lesson plans around your students’ interests, whether it’s mobile apps or animation. You can even facilitate coding by bringing robots into the classroom in the form of “floor robots,” like Roamers and Bee-Bots. Robotics is a fantastically entertaining tool for teachers, and VEX Robotics offers a variety of lessons which can introduce secondary school students to Python and C++. You can also challenge your students by having them experiment with programming languages using the online community “Scratch.”
Engineering has an abundance of resources, from the James Dyson Foundation to Tomorrow’s Engineers. Through Tomorrow’s Engineers, there’s an assortment of lesson plans and experiments best suited to older students. These can range from building your own helicopter to testing materials to withstand flooding. The Dyson Foundation, meanwhile, provides lesson plans on concepts like building spaghetti bridges. They also offer “idea boxes” to primary school classrooms, which come with a teachers’ pack containing lesson plans and instructions. There’s a secondary school version which gives students the opportunity to disassemble a Dyson machine and explore engineering in greater depth.
First of all, maths doesn’t have to be about a bunch of numbers on a page. It can instead be incorporated into activities that immerse the student in the lesson. From pretending to be popular fictional characters to maths games based on television shows, you can turn a subject that is often seen as unappealing into an absorbing mental exercise. Simple tricks can also be invaluable in the classroom. Whether it’s teaching students to multiply or divide, the goal is to make maths approachable rather than focus on grading. There are plenty of online resources for all key stages, which can provide ideas and guides for different approaches to mathematics.
With these tools and activities in mind, we can not only educate a new generation of students in STEM areas, but we can fuel them with excitement and passion for science, technology, engineering, and maths.
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