Fifteen Ideas to Start the Year with a STEM Culture

Getting Started with Building a STEM Culture

As another school year kicks off, it’s important to examine simple ways to integrate STEM into classroom culture. We put together a collection of STEMtastic ideas to start the year with strategies, tools, and resources that will help build STEM in the classroom. At Discovery Education, STEM is more than just content or “doing additional science or math,” or even adding the occasional engineering activity into the curriculum. STEM is a culture that permeates beyond the classroom into the whole school and homes of the community. The best way to get started with STEM is to take the first step. Try a few of these simple ideas and strategies to begin to build your own STEM culture.


1. See Me Using the 4C’s:

Whether in kindergarten or as a senior in high school, throughout the year students need to recognize the STEM skills they are using in everyday life. Use this simple STEM Strategy that Works inspired by Kelsey Harrell from Tampa, FL to develop metacognitive skills with students. Research tells us that deliberately labeling STEM thinking in everyday life leads to better learning outcomes, especially with more complex problems. Metacognition around STEM helps develop the skills students need for their future careers.

See Me Using the 4C’s STEM Strategy – Click Here


2. STEM Career Challenges:

“You can’t be what you can’t see.” This phrase has so many meanings in education, but it proves incredibly true when we discuss our student’s future careers. The days of “generic” careers have passed. Calling someone an engineer is equivalent to calling all medical workers “doctors or nurses”; there are an enumerate variety of career opportunities. Instead of just building towers out of marshmallows, these activities tie specific “high-interest” careers to challenges simulating the work of that career. To start the year we are highlighting two out of this world careers:

Astronaut STEM Career Challenge – Click Here

Robotics Engineer STEM Career Challenge – Click Here


3. Join a STEM Professional Learning Community:

The American Institute of Research and US Department of Education shared that STEM in the near future will require communities of practice. How best to model this with our students than to join one ourselves? The Discovery Educator Network (DEN) is a great way to share, learn, and lead. Within the DEN tab in Discovery Education, you will find thousands of educators in discussions about numerous topics including STEM! Joining twitter chats such as our very own #DESTEMChat is another way to share ideas and exhibit your own growth mindset!


4. Social Action in STEM:

Showing to students that they are able to make a difference with STEM in their own worlds is key to engaging them in learning. When students are excited/engaged in a topic, they have better learning outcomes than when they don’t feel connected to the topic. In our August STEMinar we highlighted a way students are able to make “Glocal” impact now. Check out the archive here and connect with partners like WeHelpTwo to allow your students to make an impact. WeHelpTwo uses the idea “Students Helping Students” by investigating prosthetics and raising funds to provide a student in a poverty-stricken nation a limb to give them the opportunity to get to school. In many countries, school is a golden ticket, and students in need of prosthetics are often not afforded the opportunity school gives because they are unable to physically get to school.

August STEMinar / WeHelpTwo Archive – Click Here


5. The Great American Solar Eclipse:

For 2 minutes and 40 seconds on August 21, an awe-inspiring, cosmological event will transfix viewers across America — the Great American Solar Eclipse. Discovery Education is providing a variety of free resources that will serve as catalysts for the inquiry process and ignite students’ natural sense of curiosity and wonder. We’re partnering with the Science Channel to broadcast the eclipse live in Madras, Oregon, one of the nation’s premier viewing spots — with astronomers and educators. You can also have your students join us on social media through our live Great American Eclipse Twitter Chat @DiscoveryEd (#CelebrateWithDE) for a live question and answer session with experts!

Live Stream – Click Here

Twitter Chat – Click Here


6. Student STEMbassadors:

Think about the story of your classroom and how you want it told. When visitors come to your room, they see only a small portion of your day and may not recognize the many STEMtastic things you and your students are doing. Student STEMbassadors, a STEM Strategy that Works inspired by Jessica Vasquez from Columbia, TN, help visitors see the big picture of STEM culture in your classroom. STEMbassadors welcome visitors and explain how your classroom supports the development of the 4Cs of 21st-century skills: collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking.

Student STEMbassadors STEM Strategy – Click Here


7. 3M Young Scientist Lab:

The Young Scientist Lab is built to foster a new generation of scientists who are inspired to improve the world with science. For teachers, students and parents seeking a place to explore the world of scientific innovations and opportunities, Discovery Education and 3M developed this interactive portal filled with engaging activities and standards-aligned teaching tools, anchored by the annual Young Scientist Challenge. Utilize some of the inquiry activities and prep your students to compete in the 2018 Young Scientist Challenge! Tune in mid-October for the 2017 finalist virtual field trip straight from the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Young Scientist Lab – Click Here


8. Glocal STEM Careers:

Every community in the world is supported by industries that have unique career pathways – many that connect local careers which now are meeting global goals as well. Often, students don’t know the possibilities available to them when it comes to finding the right occupation for their passions, interests, and abilities. In this collaborative global project, classrooms collect data on a local STEM career they feel is important to their community’s future and contribute its details to a global database. Students are encouraged to consult the growing database and explore careers in their community, region, or globally that align with their passions and/or interests.

Global Lab STEM Career Challenge – Click Here


9. AgExplorer:

STEM is not limited to students in suburban and urban localities. Rural communities have just as many STEM connections and skilled laborer needs if not more! National FFA and Discovery Education have joined forces to create a robust, comprehensive career resource to help you explore the broad range of careers within the industry of agriculture. Careers may have you using advanced equipment, creating new hybrid seeds, raising animals, managing people or designing new products and packaging. The industry of agriculture can open up a world of possibilities, and the demand for professionals in every agricultural area is high. Learn more about which careers may be right for you by watching the videos, exploring the career pages and completing the Career Finder interactive.

AgExplorer – Click Here


10. Augmented Reality(AR):

Connecting students to the real-world is critical in STEM instruction and helps students understand the context of content. If you can’t bring students to an experience, how do we bring the experience to them? Augmented reality is a technology that layers computer-generated enhancements on top of an existing reality in order to make it more meaningful through the ability to interact with it. Kathy Schrock’s Katch of the Month blog post does a great job of highlighting the depth and breadth of this amazing tool. “To be able to view and manipulate an object being learned about can lead to deeper understanding and further exploration and questions.” Just remember AR should be used to enhance, not just a shiny object “fun” activity; think about context!

Kathy Schrock’s Katch of the Month (AR) – Click Here


11. #ActualLivingScientist:

What do real world scientists look like? What do real world scientists actually do? In February of 2017, one scientist (Dave – @Alongsidewild) made it his mission to being light to this misinterpreted career. Thousands of scientists from across the world jumped in to share their work and that scientist are everywhere! The idea for the hashtag came from a 2011 Research America survey that found 66 percent of Americans were unable to name a single living scientist. Use this opportunity to develop a bulletin board for students to share their findings. Have students bring in a post from #ActualLivingScientist and introduce the scientist to the group!

#ActualLivingScientist Bulletin Board – Click Here


12. Discovery VR:

Connecting students to the real world is critical in STEM instruction and helps students understand the context of content. Sound familiar? Virtual Reality is another way to bring content alive in the context of the real world. There are many places we can’t (and shouldn’t) take our students, such as the depths of the ocean face to face with a great white shark. Discovery VR is compatible with almost all VR hardware, or can be used directly on your computer! Take students on trips around the world (the 21st Century Magic School Bus) to expose them to worlds they could only imagine or see in pictures in the past.

DiscoveryVR – Click Here


13. Virtual Class Pets – Animal Planet:

Animals can be extremely engaging and spark students love for STEM. Discovery Education and Animal Planet Live have teamed up to bring you Virtual Class Pets, a collection of live animal cams that your class can observe on your own time, with no cost, no messy situations, and no time-consuming upkeep. Check-in with your favorite virtual class pets daily and utilize the connected resources to enhance your students’ classroom experience. Animal Planet Live also provides cams streaming from zoos across the country highlighting all types of animals from pandas to cockroaches!

Virtual Class Pets – Click Here

Animal Planet Live – Click Here


14. Virtual Field Trips – NBA Careers That Count:

Travel with Miles Brown (star of ABC’s Black-ish) inside the NBA’s headquarters in New York City for conversations with some NBA team members who are using math every day. Brooklyn Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will show Miles how he uses math to make quick, game-time decisions. Rondae will flash some skills on the court in a timed shooting drill, where your students will have the chance to use a basic math equation to calculate points per shot. From there, go to Madison Square Garden, where he chats with the Knick’s Basketball Database Analyst, Zain Jafri. This is one of the virtual field trips regularly shared throughout the school year. Regularly check-in the Discovery Education Virtual Field Trip page for upcoming events!

NBA Careers that Count – Click Here

Discovery Education Virtual Field Trips – Click Here


15. #DESTEMChat

Join the DE STEM Team for our monthly STEM Chat on the last Wednesday of each month from 8-9pm EST as we discuss the pedagogy and practicality of implementing STEM into instruction. Each month, we facilitate rich conversation between our guest host and STEMthusiasts from all over the world on topics that matter to educators, students, and industry leaders. Join the twitter-verse and connect with like-minded educators looking to make their classrooms, schools, and communities STEMified! The next #DESTEMChat takes place on August 30th, 2017! How do I participate in a #DESTEMChat?

How to Participate FAQ – Click Here

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  1. Dkkutz said:

    Just beginning a STEM course at my school. I am very excited to create this new curriculum for my students. Thanks for the links to great ideas for the classroom.

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