The Best Way to Help Kids Solve Problems
Claire wanted to be an astronaut when she grew up. She met Natasha, the other half of Vivify STEM, in college.
Claire has worked as an engineer on the 747 for Boeing, an engineer in the space shuttle program, and as an engineer for a company that designs planes for agriculture and firefighting.
She never planned on being an educator. She has always had a passion for taking the things she learned and communicating them to the next group of people so it’s easier for them to learn.
How Vivify STEM was born
During college, Claire and Natasha led several organizations all with the goal of supporting future engineers.
Several years after graduation, they were talking about how they were yearning to help others. At that time the government was pushing for more STEM skills in the pipeline.
They thought maybe they could help teachers by writing lesson plans for teachers.
What is STEM?
True STEM uses all four of these subjects: science, technology, engineering and math; An interdisciplinary approach to combining those subjects.
It’s student led and project based.
Two problems: one is a mislabeling of something as STEM that really isn’t.
STEM includes all those and solves a problem.
Three stages of STEM
Not all STEM activities are equal. STEM skills should build upon each other and advance as more skills are required. Teachers can be intimidated by STEM, but this idea helps it not be as difficult.
Stage 1. Building. This allows students to work on communication skills and perseverance through failure.
Stage 2. Engineering design challenges- apply math and science concepts using engineering concepts. This process is what real world engineers use.
Stage 3. Design competitions. These are long term projects, where math and science concepts are applied to design advanced problems.
Our society cannot progress unless we know how to share what we know and share our solutions.
Homeschoolers can use social media to share what they know and communicate the skills that they learn, for example.
What can students learn from STEM?
STEM increases critical thinking skills and gives them depth to their understanding.
They learn about real world connections and how what they learn is valuable. It helps them with problem solving in any situation.
STEM helps science and math click with kids as they connect with real world experiences.
How is STEM different from other classroom learning?
It’s really a blended learning environment.
The key is that it’s a student led project. It makes a difference in how students absorb the information. Kids are given that authority.
They get excited when they start putting it together.
What are some examples of projects that you do in STEM?
One of our favorite STEM activities is our space lander challenge.
Students are given a story about aliens coming to earth that need help landing safely. They have a cup with marshmallow aliens. They have to come up with ways to help the cup spaceship land safely, and keep them from popping out of the cup.
They can use a variety of materials to help them land safely. We discuss science methods. After we discuss it and make changes to the assignment.
It’s a lot of fun and a great learning experience that we end with math problems that go along with it.
We like to include real world connections, like how these things are used by engineers at NASA. The best part is that kids are having so much fun they don’t realize how much they are learning.
Their creativity is amazing.
We try not to give examples. That freedom opens up their creativity and their minds start working and lighting up.
Sometimes teachers will ask how to do it, but they say just let the students figure it out.
STEM opens up new solutions
That is the magic of STEM. They have the creativity and freedom to make these things happen and to figure out solutions.