Developing Critical Thinking Skills via Exploring STEM ConceptsBy Diana Wehrell-Grabowski on October 17, 2012 in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education, Teacher Training Workshops
Conducted Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) teacher training recently at a charter school in Florida. Each training session was three hours in length, just enough time to introduce the teachers to hands-on-minds-on STEM investigations that help to develop and strengthen critical thinking skills in students. My goal is to present to the teachers that they can use inexpensive, readily available, and even recyclable items to teach STEM concepts. From using the school yard, campus architecture, playgrounds as tools to develop critical thinking skills in their students. During this STEM training teachers ventured outside to make observations of shapes and patterns in nature and man-made objects. Teachers took notes via a reflective journaling style, and also shared their notes via peer review. Peer review of student journals is a great way for students to learn from each other, as well as keep students on task. If you know your notes are going to be reviewed by your peers the student is more likely to put effort into their observations, data collection etc.. The session continued with teachers using a variety of wood blocks to build free-standing structures, using levels, digital balances, and rulers in their construction. It was then onto ramp science. Teachers were given a wide variety of materials to construct ramps with including upholstery tubes, insulation tubes, Hot Wheel tracks, tape, and marbles. Teachers designed, constructed, and tested their ramps employing the engineering design process throughout the investigation. During the second session 4th-8th grade teachers were introduced to biomimicry, mathematics and architecture concepts, bridge building, using toys to teach force, motion, and energy concepts, reverse engineering, and states of matter. As always it was a great group of teachers, they left the STEM training motivated with turn-key ready STEM investigations, and perhaps a new outlook on how they can modify their current teaching practices to ensure that students are developing their critical thinking skills. Check out the photos of the STEM teacher training session.