Educators across the country have been working tirelessly to provide healthy, safe, and accessible learning environments and scenarios that allow children to grow, develop and address learning gaps exacerbated by the pandemic.
In times when it can be hard to predict what even the next day might bring, even the most well-researched plans can at times fall through due to situations outside of an educator’s control. This persistent feeling of uncertainty can lead to decision fatigue, or the desire to rely on methodologies that might have worked pre-COVID but might be less effective today.
When teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects in our current environment, it might seem like providing an immersive pedagogy that embraces hands-on exploration is too logistically difficult to implement. However, at the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) we believe this type of education is how children learn best.
Below are a few strategies you can use in your classrooms to provide safe and immersive STEM experiences that can benefit your students:
As many of the world’s greatest inventors, our NIHF Inductees, can attest, often the most creative and impactful solutions are a product of collaboration. Each member of a group brings with them a unique set of ideas and experiences. By creating spaces where students’ opinions are valued, you will help them gain the confidence to express their thoughts and opinions.
Because of the pandemic, interacting with friends and developing solutions in a group setting has unfortunately been difficult to achieve. Implementing STEM programming that embraces these types of interactions can be a great way to promote social-emotional learning (SEL) and encourage your students’ growth and perseverance.
“One of the pieces of feedback from one of the [ESL] students that we received was that he finally felt he was in an environment where he felt safe to state his opinions and, in turn, to have his opinions or thoughts or critical and creative-thinking skills validated from the teacher.” – Natasha Karac, English learners services director at Pinellas County Schools and Camp Invention® Director
Applying Solutions to Real-World Problems
With over 30 years of experience in developing innovative STEM programming, at NIHF we’ve learned that the most effective and engaging way for students to learn is by doing. It’s for this reason that all our activities include materials that encourage hands-on exploration. As our Education Team uses real-life lessons and stories from our Inductees to inform each year’s new programming, they create curricula that allow students to solve real-world problems in many ways.
By using invention education techniques, which invite participants to discover or “invent” solutions to real-world problems, NIHF’s programming gives children the ability to learn through building and prototyping. In this way, children can begin to develop the Innovation Mindset®.
“It was great to see the incredible materials, and how the videos and visuals were interwoven throughout to appeal to many types of learners. Students had no issue reaching out and asking questions or being engaged. Thank you again.” – Priscilla Parchia, program manager, expanded learning at Oakland Unified School District, Camp Invention® Director
Learning How to Adapt
As the world becomes increasingly complex, today’s students will be expected to solve problems that lack simple solutions. To prepare for this, educators should consider introducing challenges that do not have one answer, but many different ones.
For example, in Club Invention®, an afterschool STEM program for students in grades 1-6, each unit challenges kids to come up with their own unique solutions for real-world problems. In Trash Island: A Garbage Patch Journey™, students learn about the large buildup of trash in the North Pacific Ocean Gyre located between California and Hawaii. They are then tasked with creating their own solution to prevent “Trash Island” from growing. As they learn more about ocean conservation and pollution control, students must adapt their strategies to arrive at their best solution.
“I had 14 students attend the program. It has been absolutely amazing! I can’t say enough good things about it. I’ve had both my principal and vice principal come in to observe, as well as any teacher or staff member that walks by. This is the way education should be in the classroom, every day. I’m so pleased to have been a part of it.” – Denise Hallinan, Gregory Elementary School, Club Invention Instructor
Learn More About NIHF’s Education Solutions
Visit our website to learn more about how NIHF education programs can bring immersive STEM experiences to your school today!