What is STEM?

This week we will have our Open House event to invite our parents in to learn more about Leland Elementary.  Parents will have an opportunity to see their child's classroom and meet their teacher.  They'll see banners like the one above displayed when they enter the building designating us as a STEM school.  But what does that mean?  This post will explain a bit about STEM beyond the acronym of Science-Technology-Engineering-Math and how it will impact the students at Leland Elementary.

In early September the CPS STEM Specialists came together to meet with Pati Sievert, the Director of STEM Outreach at Northern Illinois University. We began by brainstorming a list of what STEM is:

  • Integrating real-world problem solving using technology
  • Encouraging a love for learning about our natural and man-made environment
  • Project based learning (better for early grades)
  • Problem based learning (higher level thinking skills- problem and solution)
  • Preparing our kids for real world interactions
  • Introducing kids to wide range of technology 
  • Cross-disciplinary connections
  • Exposure to multiple career paths and jobs available
  • College and career readiness 
  • 21st Century Skills:  creativity, collaboration and innovation

Why STEM Matters

STEM jobs are growing in numbers.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor and other agencies experts are predicting that there will be over 1 million job openings in STEM-related fields by 2018.  Jobs in all STEM related fields are expected to increase:

STEM Related Jobs

There are a number of jobs available that students should be aware of that relate to STEM. Some of these jobs aren't existing yet! Of current jobs available these include (but are not limited to):

Science-  physician, scientist, NASA, educator, meteorologist, forensics, crime lab assistant.  See more here!

Technology- computer programmer, IT support, software development, web design, educator, video game programmer, network administrator.  Find out more about computer and information systems jobs here!

Engineering- civil engineer, aerospace engineer, mechanical engineer, architect, amusement park developer, automotive engineer, biochemical engineer.  Visit this link to find out about more engineering possibilities. 

Mathematics- actuary, educator, researcher, accountant, statistician, analyst, financial advisor, banker. Checkout this site if you are interested in what types of jobs math majors can get!

Not sure what type of STEM related job is right for you?  Check out a quiz that will help steer you in the right direction!  http://thefunworks.edc.org/SPTUI--FunWorks/funworks/quiz.php

Who's Responsible?

In a STEM school such as ours who is responsible for STEM implementation?  Everyone!  The Math & Science Specialist along with the STEM Technology specialist are responsible for helping build capacity with teachers by bringing targeted professional development and resources to them.  To see more about my role as the STEM Technology Specialist please visit this blog post.  Teachers and Parents also play a strong role in getting STEM rolled out.  Below are some resources to help with that task.


First and foremost talk "math and science" at home with your kids!  Math and science are all around us! Allow your children to cook with you to learn about measurements and fractions.  Show them bills such as your cell phone bill so they can see how numbers are broken down between minutes, taxes, fees, etc. Point out shapes such as stop signs, yield signs and more.  Plant a garden and watch nature take its course!  Have your children help with family pets to learn about living things.  Talk about the weather.

This list from NIU's STEM Outreach program will provide you with museums and places to visit as well as resources to use at home with your children.

STEM Career also offers great resources for parents.


STEM in Review

It's important to know what STEM is and what it is not-

  1. STEM is a pedagogy (a way of thinking).  It is not a "boxed curriculum" that is taught for a part of the school day and then put away
  2. STEM is consistent, daily exposure to science, math and technology integration to build these skills in students.  It is not taught in isolation a couple of times a week
  3. STEM should be seen throughout the school in all grade levels.  It is not only present in middle school grades.
It is a culture shift within a school that involves science, technology, engineering and math that is supported by 100% staff and 100% students.  

These photos were taken outside a 1st grade classroom at Leland.  It is great to see our little ones excited to learn this year.  The hope is that future images will provide examples to be included with these wishes!

Following is the parent STEM flyer that was developed for Leland's Open House:


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