Centered around project-based learning, an effective STEM classroom fosters a positive culture that allows students to problem-solve, collaborate, create, test ideas, and build with their hands. The goal of stem classroom design is to inspire students to think, innovate, prototype, and research in teams.
Here are 6 effective STEM Classroom Design elements that you can implement to encourage a positive STEM environment.
STEM Classrooms Are:
A STEM classroom needs to be able to accommodate projects for science, technology, engineering, and math in addition to other subjects. Covering so many topics requires the classroom to be flexible. One minute the classroom may be set up for a formal lecture or presentation and the next it needs to accommodate hands-on group projects. Flexibility for the classroom starts with its desks and chairs. Having simple furniture that is lightweight and durable makes it easy to rearrange and withstand the messes of science experiments. Throw out your classic seating charts, students need the freedom to customize their team work space in a STEM classroom. Some students may be sitting at desks, building something on the floor, or even standing around a single table.
In order to make a STEM classroom flexible, the furniture needs to move easily. Wheels on the bottom of furniture allow for quick transitions. It also allows the classroom to have a different layout each day. The goal is for students to make the space their own and have the ability to move the furniture in creative ways. With mobile tables and chairs, students get to design the work space that is best for them. Effective STEM classrooms also have mobile whiteboards. Its challenging for multiple teams to huddle around the two or three whiteboards on the walls in classrooms. Instead mobile whiteboards can be brought to their unique work space. Whiteboards are an essential part of STEM classroom design because it allows for the quick visual display of ideas and are a necessary tool for the math component of STEM.
STEM fields are technology driven. Therefore, it’s difficult to teach STEM, without having technology for the students in the classroom. Tablets, laptops, and other technology help students collaborate in teams, research their ideas, and design solutions. More technology in the classroom means students need more power, power strips and charging stations are an essential part of the classroom. If you are on a tight budget, remember that it’s more important to have an adaptable classroom than to implement the most innovative technology.
Project based learning can be loud and at times chaotic, with each team tackling problems in their own way. In order to make this a productive and effective environment, the classroom must be organized.
>1 Organize your supplies. Each team can receive a kit of supplies or there can simply be one central supply table. It all depends on the amount of prep-time available and how much time and effort you want to invest in the project.
>2 Organize your time. Make it clear to students how much time they have to work for the day, display activity directions clearly where all students can see, and have a clear signal, clapping or phrase, that lets the students know when it is time to be quiet and listen.
>3 Organize your project storage. When it comes to STEM projects, especially engineering ones, students will often have partially completed projects that they will need to store until their next work time. Storage containers and designated shelving are both ideas on how to protect student’s work without cluttering up the classroom.
STEM Classrooms are considered flipped classrooms, where the students learn through hands-on activities and working in teams. In this setting the teacher is the project’s guide, presenting the problem to be solved, answering questions, and facilitating discussion that makes students think more deeply about what they are doing and why they are doing it. In STEM classrooms teachers are inspiring innovation through collaboration with the attitude that there is always more than one solution to a problem.
Individuals have good ideas, but teams have great ones. Since students will be be working in teams, encourage them to respect and listen to the ideas of everyone in the group. A student may present an idea, that then is improved upon by additional team members. It creates a snowball effect that will produce better solutions, as well as, more of them. The discovery process is all part of the fun.
STEM classrooms are learning spaces that inspire. Implementing these six elements result in an effective STEM Classroom design that creates a positive environment where students can learn, innovate, and collaborate.
For more information on STEM go to the STEM Revolution.