Any instructor teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects should be familiar with the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA). Although the NSTA was founded in 1944, the organization has been getting more attention in recent years thanks to increased attention to STEM education. With a focus on propelling science learning in schools, the association’s members include people from a wide range of professions, such as school administrators, science teachers, supervisors and professionals in the fields of science and business, among others.
As the NSTA states, “modern STEM education promotes not only skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, higher-order thinking, design, and inference, but also behavioral competencies such as perseverance, adaptability, cooperation, organization, and responsibility.” The role of the association is to guide K-12 teachers into incorporating STEM education in their classrooms. The website offers invaluable resources for educators, including a myriad of articles, web seminars, journals, lesson plans and references about specific themes such as social justice and distance learning.
Especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased online learning, the association has gone above and beyond to ensure that teachers are supplied with the materials needed. One online series called “Teacher Tip Tuesday” has explored the topic since last year with “SOS tips.” Author Jodi Petersen has also compiled a series of resources for teaching STEM subjects remotely, including free access material from renowned sources such as Amplify, Arbor Scientific, Carolina Biological Supply Company, Fisher Science Education and Flinn Scientific.
Although much of the website’s content is directed at teachers, STEM subjects in schools require many steps. To achieve STEM learning outcomes, whether online or in-person, the NSTA highlights the following important components:
- Identifying common goals and pathways between teachers and administrators
- Beginning STEM education as early as preschool
- Implementing models of professional learning and ongoing support to sustain changes in pedagogy
- Providing teachers with the necessary tools to implement STEM lessons
Therefore, the responsibility doesn’t fall only on the individual teachers but also the schools, districts and even parents. “STEM education makes learning ‘real’ and gives students opportunities to see the connection between the content they are studying and the application of that content in authentic and relevant ways,” writes the NSTA Board of Directors.
This “real-life” learning is essential to engage students. NSTA’s contributor Cassie Bess provides a model unit of teaching the impacts of human interference on the environment, which is a good example of putting theory into practice. She first engaged students with questions about their personal experiences. Some of the students quickly showed initiative and approached the teacher to ask if they could lead a project of their own to have a positive impact.
However, Bess points out, “we needed to investigate their initial ideas about STEM to build a solid foundation before we approached solutions about the human impact in a meaningful context.” She then conducted lessons that mixed theory and practice and posed problems for the class to solve, effectively creating an awareness of the infinite possibilities to be found within science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
As STEM education becomes an increasingly important part of student education, NSTA resources will be crucial for helping educators, school leaders and districts effectively teach science, technology, engineering and math subjects.