LESSON

STEM for All

In this lesson, students consider some of the advantages of a career in STEM. As a class, they plan activities in support of the idea of “STEM for all.”
Grade Level
3-5

Objectives
  • Students will integrate and evaluate statistical data through writing and illustration.
  • Students will research scientists from the past and present and learn about strategies for pursuing a STEM career.
  • Enduring Understandings: Students can encourage interest in and promote access to STEM careers for diverse groups of people by learning about scientists of the past, connecting with scientists of the present and becoming scientists of the future.
Essential Questions
  • What can students do to encourage interest in STEM careers among diverse groups of people? 
  • What can students do to promote access to STEM careers for diverse groups of people?
Materials

Vocabulary

growth [grohth] (noun) improvement, increase

occupation [ok-yuk-pey-shuh n] (noun) job, career

opportunity [op-er-too-ni-tee] (noun) chance

projected [pro-jekt-ed] (adjective) estimated, predicted

 

Procedure

Mix-and-Match STEM Stats

Use the “Mix-and-Match STEM Stats” handout to kickoff a discussion about some of the advantages of a career in STEM. The statistics on this handout are drawn from a STEM Education Coalition fact sheet and the report “STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future.” This handout can be used in one of two ways:

Option A: Display the handout in a format large enough for students to see. Read and discuss each statistic and have students choose the illustration that matches it.

Option B: Make enough copies of the handout so that you can cut along the lines and give one piece to each student (for example, five copies for a class of 30 students). Distribute the pieces and ask students to quietly circulate and find a person with an illustration that matches their statistic or vice versa. Have students return to their seats as soon as they’ve found their match to review the statistics as a group. You may wish to display a large image of the handout to facilitate the discussion.

 

Do Something

Step 1: Say something like, “Not everyone will choose a career in STEM, but we want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to have a career in STEM. Let’s talk about what we could do as a class to make sure we’re headed in that direction.”

Step 2: Distribute the “Put a Little STEM in Your Life” handout and explain that it will serve as a map to help the class plan its STEM activities. Describe each option and choose one or more that will work for your class. You may prefer to have students vote on an activity or brainstorm their own ideas, write them down on the handout and execute one of them.

 

Connect with scientists of the past.

Grab a book about a scientist and read it to a younger student. There are many biographies of scientists available as picture books. See the “Scientists in Action: Picture Book List handout for a list of more than 30 titles. Through their readings, your students will discover some famous scientists and some not-so-famous ones—and can pass along their excitement to kids in younger grades. You’ll need: a partner classroom willing to hear stories about scientists, picture-book biographies of a diverse group of scientists, a means of assigning students to books and scheduling, and opportunities to practice reading aloud.

Write and illustrate a bio about a female scientist or scientist of color, and share this bio with someone else. Although biographies of female scientists are common, picture books showing underrepresented groups are few and far between. This is a good reason to have your students write and illustrate their own biographies about scientists. You’ll need: a discussion of the elements included in a biography, picture books to serve as examples, access to online or print reference materials, time to write, edit and illustrate, and an event for sharing the finished products. Links to online lists of female scientists and scientists of color can be found in “STEM for All: Additional Resources.”

 

Connect with scientists of the present.

Follow the story of dirty drinking water in Flint, Michigan. Provide a brief background of the water crisis in Flint to students and ask them to conduct their own independent research. A list of sources that can help you prepare this background can be found in “STEM for All: Additional Resources."

Watch scientists at work on the website OLogy. On OLogy, a website for kids from the American Museum of Natural History, students can explore 14 different areas of study—from anthropology to zoology. The “Meet the OLogist” feature includes written interviews and brief video clips from scientists in the field.

Pose your science question to an expert online at Ask Dr. Universe. A project of Washington State University, “Ask Dr. Universe” offers clear answers to kids questions like, “How does snow form?” and “Why do bees make hexagons?” The site is easily searchable, offers a simple form to pose questions and answers are provided by a female cartoon cat. The site is approximately sixth-grade reading level. (You can also sign-up for a weekly “Dr. Universe” column to your email inbox.)

 

Become the scientists of the future.

Note: The options in this section are more abstract, but important for maintaining an ongoing commitment to STEM.

Get really good at math. Math proficiency is a non-negotiable for a career in STEM. Help your students connect their daily assignments with future goals.

Enjoy a science moment. Make science a habit by providing a daily or weekly “science moment.” Websites with entertaining daily content, such as Wonderopolis, make this objective easier. If you have older students, you can put them in charge of curating or presenting information.

(Fifth-graders only) Keep your eyes on the prize. Older students may be facing decisions about middle school. For example, they may have the opportunity to select more or less challenging math classes. In larger districts, students may even have a choice of schools. Encourage students to opt for the academic rigor that will allow them the widest range of career choices. Don’t let girls or students of color sell themselves short or allow anyone else to underestimate their capabilities.

 

Step 3: Conclude the lesson with a commitment from your students to support each other in their academic preparation for STEM careers and to encourage each other’s curiosity and perseverance.

 

Alignment to Common Core State Standards/College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6

Lesson written by Kathy Kinsner.