A Guide to STEM Academics (And How You Can Improve Student Retention)

It’s in a child’s nature to be curious, ask questions, explore new things, and expand their interests. These days, it’s unsurprising that so many kids show interest in science and technology, among other subjects. So, how can educators harness a young child’s curiosity about such topics to propel them into a positive future? Teachers across the nation are introducing STEM academics into their classrooms to encourage students to follow these interests into adulthood.

What Is STEM?

STEM is an acronym, standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and incorporating these subjects into the standardized curriculum is becoming ever popular among America and the world’s teachers.

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) calls STEM academics an “interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real-world lessons as students apply science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in contexts that make connections between school, community, work, and the global enterprise enabling the development of STEM literacy and with it the ability to compete in the new economy.”

In short, STEM academics or education is a method of introducing a broad range of foundational concepts and skills that prepare students for their future careers.

Examples of Stem Programs:

  • Chemistry
  • Computer science
  • Engineering (aerospace, civil, mechanical, etc.)
  • Robotics
  • Physics
  • Mathematical biology

Areas of study within STEM are practically endless, making it possible for students to find activities and interests that they genuinely love and enjoy learning about in the classroom.

Why STEM?

STEM academics offer an array of benefits to young minds, helping them build towards a better and brighter future.

In the past, the landscape of industries like science, math, and engineering, was dominated by upper-class white men. Now, integrating STEM activities into everyday school curriculums allows everyone, from all genders and backgrounds, to explore their interests in the subjects and get started on what one day could be a very lucrative career.

Let’s take a look at all the advantages that STEM academics offer to students.

Benefits of Stem Academics Include:

  • Encourages exploration, creativity, and ingenuity
  • Allows for firsthand knowledge application
  • Teaches valuable technology skills
  • Encourages teamwork and collaboration among students, specifically for problem-solving
  • Lowers gender discrepancies in STEM industry environments
  • Teaches students to think critically about a variety of situations
  • Provides education on a wide breadth of topics and subjects
  • It helps students meet future workforce demands

As our world continues on an upward trajectory towards automation and modernization through technology, it’s crucial that kids keep up with the current trends. STEM academics allow students to work within a safe environment to explore their interests and gain a wealth of knowledge to put them at an advantage in their future occupations.

Getting Students Interested in STEM Academics

It’s understood that academic interest will wane for children during their middle school years. This waning in interest may be due to puberty, budding romantic interests, video games, or other distractions during such a formative period. Although interest might be at an all-time low, it’s essential to encourage STEM education at this age because it’s also when career interests and aspirations are starting to form.

So, how can educators get students interested in and involved with STEM subjects when the words math and science surely make them shudder? The answer really is quite simple; You need to spark interest through activities that don’t feel like schoolwork. There are several unique and exciting ways to do this:

1. Explore Outdoors

Outside play is an excellent way to increase your classroom’s interest in STEM academics. There is a wide variety of fun activities to do outdoors that incorporate science, physics, and other aspects of STEM academics. Nature walks, insect observation, or even merely rolling different objects down a hill are excellent ways to expose students to STEM education.

2. Interact With Animals

Animals are another great way to involve science and biology in your classroom curriculum. Teaching students how to interact safely with a classroom pet provides a variety of benefits. You can teach the concepts of observation, nutrition, and the life cycle, while also encouraging responsibility and accountability.

3. Prioritize Play

Play is a critical part of a child’s development. Incorporating the four unique types of play – pretend, exploratory, guided, and free play – allows children to explore what interests them without any outside pressure. Even toys as simple as building blocks can encourage children to think critically and creatively.

Guided play is a great way to get your students involved with STEM subjects. Utilize tools like this STEM group physical activity from Skillastics to encourage critical thinking while still incorporating the opportunity for play.

If your classroom is primarily online at this time, there are plenty of online resources too, which can help you guide play while teaching STEM academics curriculum. This virtual Skillastics activity blends STEM with sports to show how science can be fun for students.

4. Teach Baking Skills

Anyone who has ever tried to bake a cake from scratch knows that culinary arts are more like a science. Teaching baking skills is also an excellent way to incorporate knowledge of measurements as well as chemistry. It’s a fun and unique way to integrate STEM education into your usual curriculum.

5. Utilize New Technology

If your district or program has the resources for new technology, expose your students to it right away. Being technologically inept in this day and age will leave a person miles behind the rest. It’s crucial that kids have access to technological education to ensure they have the tools to succeed in the future.

Retaining Student Involvement in STEM Education

It’s challenging to get students to start STEM activities at first, and once they’re hooked, you hope that the interest remains. However, retaining student interest in STEM academics is a challenge in itself. Below, we explore the best ways to maintain involvement in STEM education amongst your students:

  • Incorporate exciting new technologies
  • Allow students the freedom to explore interests and different activities
  • Blend things like sports or the outdoors into the activities to make it more attractive for a young demographic
  • Strike a balance between (or blend) arts and humanities into STEM activities to keep things interesting for everyone

STEM subjects are not for everyone, but it’s a crucial part of today’s education system, so our future generations are prepared for the workplace. Integrating arts, humanities, and physical activities into your classroom or afterschool program provides children the chance to spark an interest in STEM while still enjoying the activity.

Retain interest in STEM academics using fun in-person or virtual activities from resources like Skillastics. Your students will stimulate and strengthen their knowledge of STEM subjects while enjoying engaging games and activities.

About the Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 on-site and virtual physical activity resource for groups of children of all sizes.  The on-site programs are designed around Skillatsics Activity Kits.  These Activity kits include an innovative technique of play, executed on an oversize mat, where up to 100 children can play at one time.

The virtual programs provide students with an amazing variety of physical activity experiences that consist of 30 days of content lasting 30-40 minutes a day taught by national experts.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.

For more information, email info@skillastics.com or check out www.skillastics.com.

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