Sunday, June 19, 2011

Montessori and STEM Education


‘Developing lifelong learners with 21st Century skills’ was the overarching theme of a recent professional development workshop hosted by WMS. Presented by WMS staff member, Melany Hoffman, the workshop was an interesting blend of STEM Education concepts with plenty of application and hands-on time to make it more meaningful for the participants.
Following are highlights and excerpts taken from Hoffman’s presentation…

What is STEM education?
A fully integrated curriculum designed to teach and enhance Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics disciplines.


What can STEM education mean to Montessori Educators?
An opportunity to support our students in becoming problem solvers, innovators, inventors and logical thinkers equipped to master STEM subjects now and in their future endeavors!


Why is STEM important for our students?
-According to Ed Gordon, author of Winning the Global Talent Showdown, “between today and 2020, it is expected that 74 percent of all jobs created in America will be high-paying jobs for high-skilled workers” with STEM degrees.


-The number of 18 to 24 year olds in the United States who receive scientific degrees has fallen from third to 17th in the world in the last three decades (Bureau of Labor and Statistics)

-Research shows that a negative interest in science begins in elementary schools where about 33% of girls and boys in fourth grade express negative attitudes (National Center for Educational Statistics)


National Educational Trends, Reform, and Initiatives…
-Major reports over the last few years have resulted in the need for comprehensive STEM education across the country

-Obama has championed the cause with the Educate to Innovate campaign to improve the participation and performance of America’s students in STEM areas.








Our STEM workshop concluded with a hands-on engineering project geared for third grade students. First, the participants were given a preliminary overview of the engineering design process. Next, the criteria for the engineering project were reviewed. Then, we separated into groups of 6-8 people and were given a factory scenario resulting in the following engineering challenge:

Each team will design an assembly line process that will make as many ‘color bricks’ in 10 minutes as possible and still meet all of the quality control constraints.

And finally, we ended our session with an evaluation phase. Each group evaluated their team’s results and presented their findings to the entire group. The engineering challenge certainly brought to light the endless possibilities of STEM Education. One of my favorite evaluation questions and responses was…………….

Question: What do you think are the benefits of the assembly-line method?
Response: “These types of assembly lines seem really obsolete- shouldn’t we be
inventing machines that will do these tasks
?”


The thought processes, creativity, and collaboration exhibited during the engineering challenge are certainly desirable characteristics for 21st Century Learners and contributors to the global community!

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