How to Turn Ordinary STEM Students Into Innovators

Monday, May 28, 2018
Motivating students to think outside the box about social and environmental awareness

We are heading into summer, and like most teachers, I am starting to reflect on my year, and beginning to plan for next year. 

If you have read any of my other posts, you know this year was a BIG learning year for me! 
One of the things I started out the year gung-ho to do, and was not able to incorporate as much as I wanted, was to introduce my students to stories of other young people doing big changes. I had visions of my middle school students finding a deep passion that drove them to create inventive new ways to solve the world's problems! (no, I am not a first year teacher, just super optimistic!) This idea slowly crashed back to Earth, but I have not let go of it, so I am brainstorming ways to more fully incorporate awareness and critical thinking skills in my students next year. 

I feel that one of the biggest ways to get students to think outside of the box and find their passion is to expose them to other young people doing big things. Many of my students are urban, and have not had much exposure to anything other than their own neighborhoods. And Fortnight, but that is a whole other post.....

As I watch the Facebook and YouTube videos of incredible kids, I notice that their stories start out very similar- the young person had an experience that jarred them out of their everyday life. They experienced something that touched them deeply, caused them to start to look into it and thinking of solutions. They noticed a problem, and decided to solve it.

So, how can I offer that to my students? How do you manufacture a life-changing experience? 

One of the things I have decided to do is expose my students to more stories. I have been collecting short (and some long) videos on different topics that are related to our main unit topics. I have some articles as well, but my school is 1:1 iPads, so the students are used to having visual content to analyze, so I feel that will make the most impact. This would be a bi-weekly or possibly monthly assignment that students would need to reflect on, possibly do additional research, and then give a quick presentation on the video and the impact that the young persons solution had.  

I am also working to make sure all of the projects we do have a wider audience than just the classroom, so I will encourage students to think about how their projects can make a difference. This could be from a social activism angle or an environmental angle, as long as there is something the students must take into consideration when designing or creating their projects. Their project could look at addressing a problem within the unit topic, or even just making sure all materials used are recycled/re-purposed. 

I am really looking forward to adding more inspiring content into my curriculum next year! How about you? What did you want to do this year that maybe fizzled out, but that you plan on revisiting next year? 

1 comment

  1. I too have a shop on TpT. This spring I purchased several inspirational books for "stem"thusists, and created activities go with them. I love books; especially books that encourage science thinking!