In December 2015, a summit of educators, school leaders, business leaders, and community leaders convened to discuss the various definitions of STEM education and arrived at consensus that everyone would benefit from a shared, common model for STEM that would apply beyond the math and science classroom. The result of that summit was a STEM Approach adopted by the Nebraska Department of Education that has been used to guide professional development efforts in teaching and learning and to build partnerships with institutions and organizations that have a shared interest in advancing STEM.
The Role of Schools
Nebraska schools are encouraged to use the STEM approach and the related STEM Evaluation Rubric as part of local planning, curriculum development and professional development activities for all teachers at all levels. STEM should not be contained to the traditional subjects of science and math. School leaders and teachers are encouraged to collaborate with one another and the resources in their communities to build a supportive “STEM ecosystem” of partners in the community.
The Role of Families, Communities and Businesses
Families are encouraged to consider how to take advantage of everyday activities and special project with children to promote the thinking skills outlined in the STEM Approach. It doesn’t require specialized training, just a bit of extra effort and time spent thinking about how to make a project like building a block tower into a meaningful STEM experience.
Community institutions and partners (libraries, museums, clubs, etc.) are encouraged to use the STEM approach in the planning and design of activities, displays and events. When youth experience the same level of thinking and skill development in non-school activities it greatly reinforces their learning.
Finally, businesses that are partners in educating youth are encourage to share the work they do in terms of the STEM approach. Often, youth have few examples of real-world application of STEM and you can provide a meaningful experience that may inspire them to pursue their interests into the future.