This is my number one goal for teaching approximately 140 extraordinary 8th graders every year. As a 22-year veteran Science teacher, I have been fortunate to see my students’ hard work pay oﬀ over the years, as adulthood has taken them on many diverse journeys. Their dreams have led them to become forensic scientists, windmill technicians, mechanics, engineers, doctors, lawyers, construction workers (who have built onto my house in a chance meeting), and everything in between. No matter what path they choose, they need to have a ‘toolbox’ that they can access when becoming productive members of society. STEM aﬀords them the opportunity to become lifelong learners by creating problem solvers and critical thinkers.
STUDENTS are the focus, rather than an exclusive subject. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math immerses students into real world situations.
Science, ELA, Math, and History are all interconnected, and intertwining the learning that takes place in all content areas together makes our students’ skills and knowledge worldly and diverse. STEM provides opportunities and opens doors for STUDENTS by developing 21st Century skills such as critical thinking, communication skills, creativity, problem solving, perseverance, collaboration, information literacy, technology skills and digital literacy, to name a few. To immerse our students in real world applications turns them into critical thinkers and problem solvers, and, prepares them for a world that will lead us forward.
As STUDENTS are my focus, exposing them to STEM activities, I have seen students come alive with ideas, share their strengths, build on their weaknesses, and gain conﬁdence in themselves and the school setting. Every Friday is ‘Fun Friday’ in Mrs. Nestor’s Science class. Students are given a task, challenge, game design project or virtual project on which they work collaboratively to achieve a goal. With full inclusion in the classroom, and many diverse student learning levels, reaching all students can be very challenging, but STEM is inclusive to all students and allows everyone to ﬁnd their voice and communicate it eﬀectively.
I have witnessed harder to educate students blossom, succeed, and feel a sense of accomplishment. STEM classrooms help to bridge gender and ethnic gaps for students by fostering an environment where the sky’s the limit for all students.
As educators, we want all of our students represented in these ﬁelds, as they are the future in our global economy. It is our job to encourage and enhance the skills that are required to lead this charge. This type of pedagogy creates a passion for learning where students are unaware that they are learning and engrains them with well-rounded skills that will help them thrive in today’s technological society. The logical thinking which comes from STEM activities produces mental habits that will help them to be successful in any ﬁeld.
As the educational community, and society itself, continues to raise expectations for our students, teachers are under an immense amount of pressure to make sure students meet those expectations. I often hear fellow colleagues comment that they have very little time to implement anything new into their curriculum and STEM takes up too much of their time. This sentiment is understood all across the country.
STEM does take a great deal of time and eﬀort, but its beneﬁts are all-encompassing. When teaching STEM, we are teaching reading, Math, ELA, and History while creating innovative thinkers. Students realize and comprehend the reasoning behind their work and see the beneﬁts.
Through real world application and hands-on experience, the relevance of STEM becomes more critical to today’s society and our students. Subjects do not take a back seat, it is not a game of tug of war, but a learning strategy to take our students to the next level. By teaching STEM in the classroom, we create innovative thinkers who learn by doing. Fellow Educators, we can’t aﬀord not to teach this way. This should be our ‘best practice’. A facilitator of learning real-world applications, through STEM, is the only way to build our students’ knowledge and watch them soar.
Heather DeLuca Nestor, a 22-year veteran and two-time National Board Certified teacher, implements STEM Activities by incorporating Fun Fridays throughout the school year for 8th grade students. Facilitating designs, challenges, labs, and technology develop students’ skills that foster a love of learning hands-on science by applying it to real world situations.