My story started when I attended a STEM seminar 2 years ago, it was organized by Ankara city and it was free of charge. This seminar was called “STEM: Basic Level”. At that time, I had some knowledge of the system. However, thanks to the seminar I gained more information. All the new information made me very worried: I was a primary school teacher and what was described in the seminar was generally to work with older students than mine. I thought that my students would have difficulty in the process of producing those products. Another challenge is that although I worked in a beautiful and successful school, other classes had no STEM education approaches.
One day our topic was an earthquake and I decided it was the right time for implementing a STEM Approach. In Turkey we are in an earthquake zone and robust construction are very important for our protection. I prepared a STEM plan on about earthquakes and real-life examples and I entered the class with marshmallows and small sticks. In the beginning I knew I was more excited than my students. See their work in the pictures bellow.
In my second activity, I wanted to push my students a little harder and prepared a new STEM plan. This time I asked them to design a spacecraft for the planet Mars. My students had some difficulties during the product design phase and even some students were a bit despaired. At this stage, I decided to show them some exemplary work that they could use as an example. I knew it was going to be challenging for them, but I gave them time and waited with great patience. I also told my students that I trust them, and they should trust themselves. Towards the end of the period, very good works began to emerge. I could see how happy my students were from their eyes. That made me so happy too!
STEM approaches, interactive work, and real-life challenges were now becoming an indispensable item for our classes. We have done more and more work like those and every day I feel my confidence in my students increasing. I also see them developing and becoming savvier and savvier. Their self-confidence has definitely increased as well. So we decided we were ready to send a project to a big STEM contest before COVID-19 happened.
We also felt ready to send our project to participate in the 2020 STEM Discovery Campaign: see our project video about noise in the school corridors during the breaks and activities. See our School Mecidiye Ilkokulu as a partner of the Campaign bellow.
My colleagues – other teachers – who saw the excitement and change in my class and students, started to be interested in STEM subjects and approach, wanting to use it in their classrooms, so I decided to provide them with online STEM seminars. Some of the topics and questions covered were: What is STEM? What are the aims of STEM Education? What level is the STEM in our country? How are STEM plans made? Here is the link to the Prezi presentation (content in Turkish). At the end of the seminar, my colleagues said that they were very satisfied and it was an informative seminar. Providing this training was a different and fruitful experience for me: my knowledge has also increased while I prepared and shared with them what I know about STEM education.
As a school, we trust our students more and give them more opportunities. STEM brings different disciplines together and provide students with unlimited projects and learning experiences. It helps motivate and engage students with subjects that they are often not as engaged with. I will continue to use STEM approaches in my classes and share what I know with other teachers. Finally, I keep on hoping to return to healthy days where we can be together again…
In case you want to learn more about STEM Education, here are some recommended resources: Learn STEM Online Conference and Learn STEM: Pedagogical innovations for STEM education.
Author: Özkan KURT
Özkan KURT has been a teacher at primary school for 12 years. He sees himself as an innovative teacher: using technology and creativity in his classes. Coding, mathematics, and STEM Approaches are his main interests.
Featured Image is the Author’s own – Attribution CC-BY