STEM is an acronym for “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics” introduced by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Over the years, STEM Education efforts by K–12 teachers have been aimed at ensuring that the United States remains competitive in the global marketplace. The development of STEM proficient students begins in elementary schools. In the elementary grades, students apply the rigor of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics content and the STEM Standards of Practice while engaged in learning activities that investigate the natural world. Students explore technology and engineering solutions and appropriately apply the concepts of mathematics in order to understand and address real life issues and solve problems or challenges. As students progress through elementary school they will begin to independently integrate the STEM Standards of Practice. They will understand how to apply the roles and views of STEM career professionals and analyze real world STEM issues, problems, or challenges as they incorporate STEM content, skills, and practices and other disciplines such as social studies, performing arts, health, and creative movement.
By the end of grade eight, students will master grade level science, technology, engineering, and mathematics content, practices, and processes, integrate STEM contents with other disciplines, answer complex questions, investigate global issues, solve real world problems, and meet real world challenges while engaging in meaningful, purposeful, and relevant hands-on inquiry-based, problem-based and/or project-based learning experiences.
STEM programs emphasize collaboration, communication, research, problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity in solving real-world problems. It is a response to the realization that our children’s future will be based on the capacity for innovation, invention, and creative problem solving. These skills and strategies carry over into numerous subject areas and beyond academia.