Encouraging STEM learning in K-12 students

STEM, or the education of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, is widely lauded as beneficial to student learning. Whether or not your school district has adopted STEM, you can learn more about this approach to education and incorporate the pedagogy in your classroom.
Here are four approaches to encourage STEM learning in K-12 classrooms.

STEM Ideas for Pre-K and Kindergarten Classrooms

It’s crucial to introduce STEM to students at an early age, especially in early childhood education. Ensure quality time is spent on each STEM field, as studies show that the amount spent on each subject encourages student achievement.



Get outside into nature to help your students develop their observational skills. Go birdwatching or on a nature walk. Play games like “I Spy” to encourage specific observations. After, have students record their discoveries in a group to work on exact vocabulary words.



Learn about literacy and technology while having an in-school scavenger hunt. Use class iPads to store an album of vocabulary letters your students can refer to, and have students take pictures of items they find that start with the correct letter. Later as a class, you can review photos of things students found based on corresponding vocabulary letters.



To focus on engineering skills, create various building challenges for your students using different materials like LEGOs, blocks, and even cups or Q-tips.



Make math fun by playing a beloved game like “Uno” and helping your students learn more about addition. This is a great way to help students get comfortable with adding numbers 1 through 10.

STEM Ideas for Elementary School Classrooms

It’s crucial to make STEM relevant to elementary students. Ensuring there’s a practical application for STEM concepts encourages a higher level of student learning and achievement.



Capture the slime craze and teach students about magnetic poles as you create your magnet slime. All you need is a little iron oxide powder and a magnet.



LEGO has many free coding resources on its website, including apps you can use with your students and a curriculum you can adapt for your classroom. It’s perfect for elementary-age students.



Try an oil spill activity by mixing cooking oil, water and a few feathers in a container. Give your students materials like sponges, toothpicks and paper towels to use, and instruct them to try to remove the oil from the water and feathers. Having students do an activity like this that is related to a real-life issue will make them more invested in the outcome.



Making math engaging can be a challenge for any teacher. Get your students moving and learning by playing hopscotch math. You’ll need a piece of chalk to draw a grid on the pavement that looks like the face of a calculator. Have your students form a line and call out an equation, like “four plus four equals.” Your students should hop on each number and then the solution to the equation.

STEM Ideas for Middle and High School Classrooms

During these developmental years, it’s important to make an effort to show how STEM can connect to future careers. One way to make STEM practical is to offer technical and trade education, which helps to prepare students for life after graduation.



Empower female students to pursue careers in science by offering academic and pre-professional programming opportunities. Provide access to hands-on experience and networking with professionals to help students further develop their confidence and gain understanding of the field.



Utilize Kahoot or a similar website to integrate gamifying technology into your classroom. This allows you to create multiple-choice quizzes that students can respond to with their phones. It’s a great way to gauge student understanding of a concept instantly.



Sponsor a Rube Goldberg Machine team at your school or within your classroom. The national contest is all about teamwork, innovation and problem-solving.



Bring a couple of board games to your classroom and encourage students to use concepts like logic, probability and multi-step thinking to make math fun. Some great games include “Escape from the Aliens in Outerspace,” “Splendor” and “Sagrada.”

Visit Schools to Encourage STEM Learning

Another great way to gather ideas about incorporating K-12 STEM learning into your school is to visit schools that are already integrating this approach into their pedagogy.
Based in Houston, Texas, Harmony Public Schools educates over 37,000 students annually at 58 different campuses. With their STEM-integrated curriculum in K-12 classrooms, Harmony schools see a 98% graduation rate among their high school seniors.
Tacoma, Washington, offers two fantastic examples of STEM learning in a high school setting: their Science and Math Institute and school of Industrial Design, Engineering and Art. The Tacoma schools also make an effort to include the arts in their curriculum.
With a better sense of how other schools integrate STEM curriculum into their classrooms, you can make this transition with your students.

The Importance of STEM in K-12 Classrooms

By embracing these ideas in your classroom, you can quickly adapt your curriculum to become more STEM-focused. You will encourage STEM learning with your students, and you will soon see the benefits in your school.

About the Author

Ginger Abbot special education

Ginger Abbot is an education and lifestyle writer with a passion for learning. Read more of her work on Classrooms.com, where she serves as Editor when she’s not freelancing.

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