The STEM Teacher
I WANT TO LEARN
I would like to see more lesson plans for STEM activities that are differentiated. I would like to learn how to create open ended inquiry projects that have enough support for students who require more structure, while also providing a challenge for stronger students. I would like to learn more about the local Indigenous culture in my community so that I may be able to incorporate their knowledge and ways of knowing into my teaching. I am interested to hear suggestions from my peers in this course about ideas for adapting the flexible spaces in my classroom. I also look forward to trying out new classroom designs to learn what works best for my students.
MY INITIAL THOUGHTS
This module includes topics such as Indigenous & cultural knowledge, inclusion, careers, and classroom environment & design. What I know of these topics comes from firsthand experience. I did not specifically study these topics in relation to STEM in my Education degree. I appreciate and value the traditional Indigenous ways of learning and knowledge and hope to incorporate them in my classroom more as I continue to learn. I noticed there is some content in this module from Shelley Moore; I have had the pleasure of participating in a workshop with her before as well as listening to her lecture on separate occasions. I look forward to expanding my ideas of inclusion with continued reflection on the topic. I know there are countless careers in STEM for our students to explore in their futures. I try my best to highlight careers in our local area that require STEM skills. Specifically in Chemistry where there is work at the many wineries and breweries that populate our community. It has been interesting to be able to take students on field trips to these establishments where in other districts it may seem inappropriate for minors to be investigating work in the liquor industry. However, it is such a strong part of our local economy, and the majority of our students’ families are already involved in such businesses, that it makes sense to include these careers when talking about futures in STEM. I am currently teaching in a classroom with a relatively fixed arrangement of structure, but I try my best to manipulate what physical items I have in combination with the tone of my teaching to create a welcoming and inclusive environment. I know classroom design includes more than just physical designs; it also involves the culture and routine of daily life in our space.
IDEAS FOR IMPLEMENTATION
Relating to my own personal teaching philosophy, I appreciate the Indigenous perspective of the power of story. I find storytelling to be a great tool in maintaining student engagement during lessons. Rather than reading a lesson full of facts, I try to embed a story about a person or time in history when the lesson material was created or was involved in a notable event. I would like to improve my teaching practice to learn some of the traditional stories told within our local Aboriginal community so that I may “use them as a touchstone for (my) students when applicable “teachable moments’ arise” (BC Ministry of Education 2015).
There are three main areas of UDL where I can focus on adapting my teaching style to better support student learning in my classroom. Being able to present my lessons in multiple forms of media, being able to give my students options for demonstrating their learning, and being able to include student choice in all aspects to promote engagement and foster interest in STEM.
There were some great ideas in the articles from this module on classroom design. I enjoy rearranging the furniture in my classroom to create “nooks” or areas dedicated to one type of exploration or use. I appreciate that I and other teachers are moving towards an intrinsic reward system by no longer bribing students with treats for good behaviour or correct responses. I also agree with Thimble’s article which wrote that organization is crucial to avoiding the clutter that can cause “brain fog, hinder learning, and create a dangerous environment”. I would love to acquire some mobile desks, chairs, and whiteboards to make it easier to manipulate the seating in my classroom. I would like to also ask my students in a more formal way for feedback on how they would like the classroom to look and what resources would be most beneficial to them.
What stood out for you after exploring the projects and resources?
Students featured in the two project videos seemed very knowledgeable about what they were studying. They appeared to have engaged with the learning process and developed usable skills as a result. I appreciated the message from one of the individuals in the Clam Gardens video who was speaking about the importance of learning from the elders while they were still there to teach the youth. They also spoke about how much was already lost and the importance of keeping their way of life alive through future generations.
How would you incorporate Indigenous worldviews and perspectives in your classroom?
In my junior classes, grades 8-10, I feel I have the resources to incorporate indigenous worldviews and perspectives into my teaching practices. The projects and learning routines I have established in these classes could definitely use some work, however. I often find myself running out of time and cutting projects short in order to finish on time. I think it is worthwhile to find the time to do these activities and inquiries properly. I think it is important for both our Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students to be exposed to, and learn from, the local traditional knowledge as well as western science.
I do struggle with my senior Chemistry 11 and 12 classes to have this approach to learning. I would love to be able to get them on the land to give their practical skills some real world applications. I also acknowledge that I need to learn more about local traditional knowledge so that I can authentically bring that knowledge into my classroom. We have an Aboriginal advocate at our school, and she has been very helpful in helping me start the learning process of bringing Indigenous worldviews and perspectives into my classroom.
Think of a STEM activity you would create with your students?
In Chemistry 11 we do an experiment where we make lead paint pigment, a lovely shade of toxic yellow. In sneaking a peek at Patricia’s project ideas that Nancy commented on, I see an opportunity to improve this lesson by investigating traditional dyes for clothing and weaving.
From the Science First Peoples Gr. 5-9 resource I have done some of the “Plants and the Connection to Place” activities with my grade 8 and 9 students and they love it. We have discussed the Bitterroot Story and welcomed an elder from the community to come and talk about local plants for tea and to make tea with the students. I feel like I do need to improve on my lesson planning though, to make sure I am clear on the STEM connections to the activity.
Exploring "Why STEM?"
Diversity in STEM
In this report the authors have defined what diversity means to them, acknowledged current challenges in dealing with diversity in STEM education, provided strategies for dealing with diversity in STEM education, and given examples for dealing with diversity in STEM classrooms.
Broad categories of the diverse challenges of our students have been identified by STEM PD Net to include cultural diversity, gender diversity, special education needs, language diversity, diversity of subject performance level, and socio-economic inequalities. It is important to note that even though students may find themselves existing in one of these minorities, it may not always be apparent to the educator. Good teachers strive to know their students so they may help them to the best of their ability. This can be a challenge in larger schools, for teachers with a high number of unique students, or when there is an interruption to the flow of information from home to school to teacher. “Learners’ diversity can be both visible (gender, skin colour, physical handicap etc.) and invisible (family heritage, culture, sexual orientation, learning difficulties etc.)” (2018) and students are not always willing to share. How can we then address this challenge of diversity in the classroom? By first acknowledging that each learner in the classroom is unique, and that “students need to be treated as individuals who are influenced by their environment, before treating them as part of a larger stereotyped group” (STEM PD NET 2018).
Strategies for addressing the diversity in STEM education include “cultural border crossing, socio-cultural learning, cultural responsive teaching, diversity pedagogy theory, and universal design for learning” and strategies for addressing the diversity in STEM classrooms include “inquiry-based learning, individualized learning, cooperative teaching methods, and language support” (STEMP PD NET 2018). After reading through all of the many strategies to address diversity challenges, I appreciated the acknowledgement for the need in STEM education to differentiate learning not only for the benefit of the diverse learner, but for the benefit of the class as a whole. “A diverse society is a source of inspiration and thus diverse learners in a classroom are an advantage not an obstacle for good STEM teaching” (STEM PD NET 2018).
Culture & CLimate
I really enjoyed listening to Ben Smith in this video from ISTE. I agreed with a lot of the things he was saying. I thought it was funny when his students said he didn’t help at all in their project that was being judged. I also try my best to not give students the answer to every question immediately. I agree with him that fostering independence is an important facet of STEM education. I do struggle when admin and parents do not understand this strategy and perceive fostering independence as the students not receiving any help and having to do the work of the teacher themselves.
He mentioned when a question comes up in class, whether it is the teacher’s question or the students. I feel like my classes are so different from one year to the next. I have one class right now that is so quiet, they won’t even say ‘here’ when I call attendance. At the same time I have another class that literally will not leave me alone – you can’t even get to the great student questions that are out there because so many of them just want me to hold their hand and guide them personally through the work. There are definitely pros and cons to both situations, but it is interesting to think about for myself at such a small rural school with virtually no change in demographics, how one year to the next can produce such a diversity of learners.
I also found the “user created content” poster/idea he had intriguing. I always make sure to talk to my students about referencing images and media included in their work and suggest they use free stock images, but I like the idea of them having to create all their own imagery. This would be a good way to be more in line with the STEAM education model.
I am absolutely in love with the idea of transforming my classroom into this beautiful space that is as functional as it is pleasing to the eye. As a science teacher with no windows in my classroom, I feel like no matter what I try, my room is always dingy and depressing. Couple that with the fact that I actually have an amazingly large room, anything I end up putting on the walls seems tiny and insignificant. As much fun as it is to consider an overhaul of my classroom, I am definitely guilty of pushing it to the end of the year when I have no time or budget left to give to the project.
That being said, there were some great ideas in the three articles we read, some of which I am already beginning to include in my classroom and some that I am excited to try:
Mobility of furniture and whiteboards
Arranging furniture to create nooks
Asking students for feedback on how they would like to use classroom resources
Minimizing extrinsic rewards
Organization is crucial to avoiding the clutter that can cause brain fog, hinder learning, and create a dangerous environment
The first article from Sonja Jacobson wrote about flipped classrooms and how “teachers are inspiring innovation through collaboration with the attitude that there is always more than one solution to a problem”. I think this is a great mindset to take into the STEM classroom.
Updating My Classroom
Module 2 Summary
In this module we discussed Indigenous worldviews and perspectives, inclusive STEM education, career opportunities for students, and the learning environment.
Engagement with the land, nature, and the outdoors is an Indigenous perspective that has great benefit to our students. Students learn best when engaged in the lesson or activity. This may be accomplished by challenging normal daily routines and taking students outside. There is a wide range of approaches to teaching outside: from simply moving lessons to an outdoor classroom or exploring the natural environment with free play, to designing projects that actively require students to focus on and use the local environment in their learning. Engineering design challenges may call for students to solve problems quite literally in their own backyard.
Most of our teaching is best suited for the majority of students in our class. This leaves both those who need support, and those who need a challenge, without their needs met. Equity in the classroom is essential to the success of all students. This begins by “supporting the outcomes of students of all backgrounds and abilities” (Soika 2022). Through an understanding of UDL and valuing our students as unique, diverse individuals first, we can begin to meet the needs and develop the potential of all our learners.
Of the learning environment, this module encouraged us to focus on not only the physical layout of a space, but specifically how the space will be used and the tone and culture that is created within the space. Sonja Jacobson wrote about flipped classrooms and how “teachers are inspiring innovation through collaboration with the attitude that there is always more than one solution to a problem”. I think this is a great mindset to incorporate into a STEM classroom environment.
BC Ministry of Education (2015). Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives. BC Ministry of Education.
CAST (2010, January 6). UDL at a Glance. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDvKnY0g6e4
European STEM Professional Development Centre Network (2018, November 28). Culture, Equity, and
Diversity in the STEM Classroom. STEM PD Net. https://onq.queensu.ca/content/enforced/667126-CONT951001S22/Culture,%20Equity,%20and%20Diversity%20in%20STEM.pdf
First Nations Education Steering Committee (2016). Science First Peoples, Gr. 5-9. FNESC.
First Nations Education Steering Committee (2019). Science First Peoples Teacher Resource Guide
(SECONDARY) (2019). FNESC. http://www.fnesc.ca/sciencetrg
Hartley Bay School - Wup Mooksgm'ol (2015, June 8). Lu lax kyook Ecological Monitoring Project [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWJLI96xvz0
ISTE (2016, December 9). The Culture and Climate of an Authentic STEM Classroom [Video]. YouTube.
Jacobsen, S. (2019, May 30). 6 Characteristics of Effective STEM Classroom Design. School Robots by
Parks Canada (2015, July 7). Clam Gardens – Learning Together – Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
[Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2wPVx4sCN0
Soika, B. (n.d.). Seven Effective Ways to Promote Equity in the Classroom. USC Rossier School of
Thimble (n.d.). STEM Classroom: Effective Design, Implementation, & Tips for Improvement. Thimble.
Wade, M. (2016, March 29). Visualizing 21st-Century Classroom Design. Edutopia.