In a STEM-oriented classroom, my main goal is to create a space where students can explore science through research in an exciting and innovative way, laying the foundation for scientific thinking and ideas. I give my students the opportunity to explore, solve problems, and collaborate with their peers while diligently completing challenging tasks. Working together, they learn critical thinking skills and develop necessary social skills both in and out of school. This type of work is not easy to convey over the Internet. However, my goal is to give students what I call V.I.P. access to STEM through e-learning, deliberate learning, and presentations. Here are some suggestions on how to teach STEM virtually.
VIRTUAL LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Currently, my students' training consists of working with STEM specialists and participating in virtual excursions. I invite STEM experts to visit my online classes to discuss topics such as the coronavirus and how students and their families can be safe. I also spend a STEM Week where students talk with various STEM experts. The experts create PowerPoint presentations and engage students in hands-on experiences. Students ask pre-set questions to gain insight into the topic and a possible career.
I use Skype to Scientist, various medical teams, and my personal network to find STEM experts to support students in their learning. I also have a STEM specialist, Dr. Nikko West, who mentors me to help me plan. When working with students of color it is very important to have professionals like them to motivate my students to work in STEM-related fields. When my students are virtually experimenting, I encourage them to wear lab coats and also call them junior scientists.
My students take virtual field trips that are free or inexpensive to provide a rich learning experience during their distance learning. Many museums collaborate with schools to do this. These "guided tours" allow students to observe various artifacts and primary sources, making learning more meaningful. Henry Ford's website is one of my favorite resources to help with virtual tours. I invite curators to interact with students to share historical perspectives on the exhibits in their respective museums. Inviting curators to share with students provides an additional opportunity to explore different topics in greater depth. For example, Julie Werz, a conservation scientist at Harvard Art Museums, spoke about her role and involved the students in an educational experiment.
Elementary students have curious and creative minds. They are always asking questions about the world around them, so they need a safe educational space to promote self-knowledge. Students collaborate in groups to conduct research activities. They create questions that help them initiate research. Then they use lab sheets to help them learn.
When students ask and answer questions, they participate in high-level strategies that help them learn. Questioning techniques help students ignite curiosity and learn new things. Questionnaires also help teachers evaluate students' understanding, while contributing to overall success. Students' questions are recorded on the board and saved on a Google slide for students to view again. Group work allows students to solve problems, make observations and develop 21st century skills.
I give students the opportunity to explore different topics, including wildlife and climate change, using books, articles, videos and websites to gain a deeper understanding of scientific topics or concepts. I use the ClassDojo platform for students to complete events to add to the digital portfolio that follows their work over time. I can choose different ways to learn in ClassDojo such as drawing, writing, completing a worksheet or recording.
Along with questions and research, my students participate in hands-on training. Some activities may require families to purchase materials in advance.