Developing STEM Curriculum – Learning more than what meets the eye!
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) might be the most talked-about education buzzword of the last 10 years. It is spoken about daily and most schools want to have a STEM program. But what does this really mean? More importantly, what does it mean to us at Bialik?
STEM is a popular term that is interpreted in many different ways. Although the science and math might be easy to understand, the technology and engineering aspect might be less clear. Technology includes topics such as coding, computer programming, analytics, and design. Engineering can include areas such as electronics, robots, and civil engineering.
The key concept, when talking about STEM, is integration. A STEM curriculum intentionally melds all the disciplines. It’s a blended approach that encourages hands-on experiences and gives students the chance to gain and apply relevant, “real world” knowledge in the classroom.
In October, Bialik’s STEM team and I boarded a flight to Israel in order to continue our thriving partnership with Galim School in Eilat. Our goal was to continue to seamlessly align the principles of STEM integration with the added benefit of offering a unique perspective of Israel to our Grade 4 and 5 students. This blended learning approach was designed to help students understand how the design thinking process can be applied to everyday life — both in Canada and in Israel. Relying on a shared language of STEM, robotics and design thinking, I was inspired to see the creative ideas that stemmed from our collaborative planning.
Before leaving on the trip, I believed I knew what skills we were going to develop and strengthen in our students in order for them to be successful in the future. We would collaboratively teach students computational thinking, help them to do real-world problem solving and put theory into practice. We would be helping to shape our students into 21st century learners. However, after a short period of time, the experience ended being so much more than I had anticipated. What I learned went far beyond STEM subjects and our original planned objectives. As our team began working with our partners from Galim, the importance of people and relationships was what resonated most with me.
Our focus quickly shifted from STEM only to a shared mission and vision — one of building relationships, collaboration and shared learning. Our ability to work with a growth mindset, led by our curiosity and belief that anything was possible, was what allowed us to think creatively together. Just as we had learned from one another, so too did we want our students to learn. It wasn’t about the ability to independently solve a problem or participate in a STEM program. Rather, it was learning how to use STEM to solve problems collaboratively, respectfully and thoughtfully and then to apply this authentic learning, that was really important. For me, it was about connecting with others. Listening to others. Learning from others. Disagreeing with others. Respecting others.
We each brought our own perspectives, our own knowledge, backgrounds, strengths (and weaknesses) to the table. It was our ability to build on each of these that allowed us to create. We had a shared goal of success that could only be achieved together as a team. This is what I want for our students.
Once back in Toronto, I had an opportunity to reflect on our ever-growing Bialik STEM curriculum. We need to build on this learning as we create our own programs, for all of our students (JK to Grade 8), with our Bialik team based on our Canadian issues. These are the learning goals that need to be central to our process and are most important to impart to our students. Our unique STEM programs include — but go far beyond — science, technology, engineering and math skills. They each aim to get our students excited about curiosity and learning. They encourage them to discover more about themselves through listening to, and working with, others. Through engagement in the design thinking process, they have opportunities to discover that learning doesn’t come at the end — rather, it occurs throughout.
Armed with strong abilities in STEM, coupled with an incredible sense of respect, collaboration, open-mindedness, our students will be well prepared for their future learning. They will have learned that we are all stronger when we work together.
I feel fortunate and honoured that, along with Marcus Dickler, Shawn Stevens and Osnat Wolle, I have the opportunity to work on creating and developing these unique integrated experiences with our teachers, for our students. I cannot wait to see our students unleash their potential.