As many educators have witnessed, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects can be met with science or math anxiety among some students and cause them to feel nervous and reluctant to participate in class.
At the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), we believe that one of the most effective ways to engage students and help them build confidence in STEM subjects is to integrate authentic invention education. This pedagogy invites students to “invent” solutions to real-world problems through hands-on projects and activities. With this active approach to learning, educators can place students in control of their learning and allow them to pursue their interests and passions.
Read below for a few more tips you can implement today to encourage student engagement when it comes to STEM learning:
Help Students Identify a STEM Role Model
To help students better understand what they are capable of achieving, it is beneficial to encourage them to identify a role model. This is especially important for those who remain underrepresented in STEM fields, including girls and people of color, as it helps them to see themselves as professionals in these areas.
Research has shown that children who are exposed to inventors at a young age are more likely to innovate as they grow older. When they are introduced to STEM innovators they can relate to, students feel more comfortable with engaging in STEM and participating in class. As a fun activity, educators might consider selecting a few Hall of Famers to introduce in class. Older students could also be encouraged to search through the NIHF Inductee database and select one role model to serve as the subject of a report.
Embrace Hands-On STEM Activities
Especially for students who might not naturally gravitate toward STEM subjects, hands-on activities can help them interact with the material in ways that are fun and engaging. Below are a few STEM activities your students can enjoy in an at-home or in-school learning environment:
- Pop-Up Comic Book
Perfect for students who love arts and crafts, this hands-on STEM activity invites participants to create their very own pop-up comic book. After writing and illustrating their story using six boxes, children are instructed to create 3D components and explore geometric designs. In the process, they learn about NIHF Inductee Edwin Binney, who invented the Crayola crayon!
- Hug Your Hound
This activity has students create a customized safe inspired by a pet. They are encouraged to think outside the box and prototype different ways their pet could access the potential treats inside. For example, maybe a nose-print scanner on the front of the safe could be one way to provide specialized biometric access to their furry friend. This activity is a great way to introduce students to the science behind biometrics and highlight Hall of Famers Leonard Flom and Aran Safir, who patented an iris identification system in 1987.
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