How to set up a STEM center in your classroom
Teachers, you have the greatest responsibility! You are shaping the face of our future. You have the task to bring out the best out of every child and to help them reach their dreams. It is challenging and hard, but not impossible. With the right kind of energy and effort, you can bring innovation into the classroom and improve their learning experience.
One of the things you should try is setting up a STEM center in your classroom. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Imagine how much your children could learn in a classroom corner designed for improving their knowledge in those 4 subjects.
But, what exactly is a STEM center?
A STEM center in your classroom is a place designed specifically for the children to learn, practice and incorporate their skills in the 4 academic disciplines combined. It can be anything you want it to be.
The idea behind it is that children acquire not only theoretical but mainly practical knowledge. It is a way of inspiring them to question everyday things and think outside of the box. A STEM center allows them to think, use logic, build with their own hands and solve problems independently.
Learn About STEM
Before setting up a STEM center, you need to gather useful information.
Look for resources online, to find out what exactly do you need. Ask around and see if your colleagues want to join you. Maybe some parents want to help, as well.
Preparation phase will be the most boring part, but it's necessary. Once you start getting the general idea of what you're getting yourself into, it will be more and more interesting.
You've got some explaining to do!
Be prepared to do some convincing. Not everyone gets the idea. It is possible that you will hear this question: Why do you need a STEM center? Have the answers prepared:
A STEM center has your children working together, sharing ideas, organizing themselves and taking individual responsibilities to contribute to the team. They will experience the value of a team effort and the beauty of group learning.
- Preparation for the ''real world"::
School doesn't last forever. The kids need to learn how to apply their knowledge practically, and it's never too early to start!
- Mental development:
The problem-solving tasks will make your children think, make decisions and generate conclusions- on their own.
Find a Spot
What your class' STEM center will look like, depends on the size of your classroom and the funds you have available. Don't despair if you have a small classroom and not much money available. You can make STEM center even under these conditions.
The ideal place for a STEM center is in a remote part of the classroom, where children can feel like they've entered a different space. This is their special corner in which they turn into scientist and engineers.
Work with what you have
If you don't have much room, a simple desk and two chairs could do the trick. Make sure they are facing the opposite side of the classroom from the regular desks. In this case, students work in the STEM center individually or in pairs.
If you do have a larger space available, you can set up several desks. In this case, you can arrange them differently depending on the group working in the STEM classroom. They can form circles, group around or work separately, depending on the task.
You've got the area ready- the chairs, desks and maybe even a separate small blackboard. What next? Now it's time to be imaginative! Take a tour around the school. There might be useful supplies for a STEM center lying around somewhere. Gather them and incorporate them in the STEM center.
Startgathering ideas for your first STEM center activities and see where that takes you. You can search online for:
The internet is filled with STEM ideas which can be performed even with a very low budget. Look them up and start your STEM center with a bang (not an actual explosion, though)!
- hands-on activities
- inexpensive materials for STEM
- printable problem-solving materials
- STEM kits
- science projects
In essence, great activities make a great STEM center. It's not about the space you're using or the money you spend building it. It's about using it methodically and skillfully, to give your students the best possible learning experience.
A STEM classroom is much more than just practicing science, technology, engineering, and math. It is a completely different way of learning, far from the classical school experience.
"If you give your students a chance to learn by exploring and having fun, you gradually change their entire mindset related to school. You no longer give them the answers to all the questions. You don't ask them to learn what you serve them. Instead, you ask them to find the answers. You allow them to learn a lesson based on their own assumptions, mistakes, and conclusions. By doing this, you make way for new ideas to be born." , explains Chloe Davidson, a high-school teacher and an editor at Rated by Students.
Get to Work!
What do you say? Are you ready to start working on your classroom STEM center?
Arm yourself with imagination and new ideas. Collect all the materials you can put your hands on. Create a concept and start working on it.
You could even make this a class assignment! Ask your students to help you set up the STEM center- it's a great first STEM activity.
Daniela McVicker is a freelance writer, blogger, and editor at Top Writers Review and at Studyclerk.com. She graduated from Durham University and has an MA in psychological science. Her passion is a travel and finding ways to enrich students' learning experiences.