While more and more people are getting on board with the value of STEM learning, it is sometimes difficult to determine what the best method of instruction is. When it comes to giving students the most valuable STEM education, it is not enough to simply memorize every math formula, learn 5 coding languages, or how to use the latest robot. Research has shown that the most effective approach to STEM education is to teach holistic STEM education.
The STEM subjects are often taught in isolation in most school settings. Here in Ontario, elementary school students do receive math instruction every day, but typically only have two 50 minute periods of Science & Technology education per week (and that doesn’t tell us how much time students spend learning about coding and other 21st century skills!). Likewise, school often focuses on the theory rather than the actual application of these subjects and typically reinforces the disconnect between STEM subjects.
There are only so many hours in a school day, so how do we ensure that our students get the most bang for their buck when learning STEM subjects?
At STEM Minds, we are setting out to change this pedagogy of isolation by calling for a holistic approach to STEM education. Using STEAM Hub, students can learn seamlessly across the too often disconnected STEM subjects and see where their passions will take them.
Only 22% of teens express interest in studying science  at the post-secondary level and only 12% consider themselves “very interested in working in science-related jobs”. STEM skills are going to be vital for the jobs of the future, so this lack of interest in STEM-related jobs is slightly concerning. However, 72% of students indicated they thought science was fun, so where is the disconnect for our students?
This disconnect is partially because students hold misconceptions about what STEM actually is as well as what a STEM career might look like.
While we love STEM and think STEM careers are amazing, it is also important for students to understand that STEM skills are an incredibly important foundation for many careers that, at first glance, seem unrelated to STEM. We are in the middle of the 4th Industrial Revolution, and if we want a future where we are able to solve the complex problems of our rapidly changing world, then building students’ skills in STEM fields is absolutely essential.
The benefit of holistic STEM education compared to teaching the STEM subjects in isolation is that it is more reflective of how professionals in STEM fields actually work. The nature of the work of most STEM professionals blurs the lines between disciplines, which makes holistic STEM education more relevant and meaningful for students. Holistic STEM learning also removes the idea that math and science are only for “some people” and opens students’ eyes to the idea that STEM is all about being a creative thinker and a problem solver.
Additionally, teaching kids how to learn and to make lifelong learning a habit is also key to building a growth mindset. When students feel confident in their ability to tackle any challenge or learn a new skill, the possibilities are endless not only for their professional life but for their personal life as well. When students are engaged and in charge of their own learning, they build not only content-specific skills but also the crucial skills to be a lifelong #fearlesslearner.
The benefits of Holistic STEM education are backed by educational research. In one study  it was found that applying a holistic STEM approach is effective for promoting student engagement in STEM and that students expressed more engagement in STEM learning environments that included a higher degree of student-centredness. When students are allowed to take charge of their learning, they are more engaged! Research shows  that in effective STEM instruction, students should be able to perform as
- Problem solvers
- Logical Thinkers
and also need to understand and develop the skills needed for technological literacy and self-reliance. These are all skills that students will develop in a Holistic STEM environment, like the STEAM Hub, where we focus not only on content knowledge but also on problem-solving skills and inquiry-based instruction.
Students have lost interest in STEM subjects as early as elementary school  and believe that these areas are not innovative or creative. But, if we can develop student interest, we know that this will in turn have a positive impact on students choosing STEM-related fields. What better way to develop student interest than letting students take the lead and allow them to explore a variety of topics while deep-diving into the ones that interest them?
If the research shows that the key is for children to be fearless learners and explore different learning opportunities to see what their passion connects with, then STEAM Hub is the perfect solution. Students can try different courses within the same package, and if they don’t like a course they can move on to the next and find their passion there, or they can advance within their favourite topics.
In order to attract more students to STEM careers as well as arm them with essential 21st-century skills, we need to shift toward a more student-centered learning environment where STEM learning is taught holistically and students can take an active role in their own learning and follow their passions.
Still not convinced? The free subscription allows you access to a trial of so many courses- making learning risk-free!
- Let’s Talk Science. (2014). SPOTLIGHT ON SCIENCE LEARNING: SHAPING TOMORROW’S WORKFORCE: What Do Canada’s Teens Think About Their Futures?. Retrieved from https://letstalkscience.ca/sites/default/files/2019-08/2014%20LTS_Shaping-tomorrows-workforce-EN_0.pdf.
- Wang, H., Moore, T. J., Roehrig, G. H., & Park, M. S. (2011). STEM Integration: Teacher Perceptions and Practice. Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research (J-PEER), 1(2), Article 2. https://doi.org/10.5703/1288284314636
- Shahali, E.H.M., Halim, L., Rasul, M.S., Osman, K., & Zulkifeli, M.A. (2017). STEM Learning through Engineering Design: Impact on Middle Secondary Students’ Interest towards STEM. EURASIA Journal of Mathematics Science and Technology Education. 13(5): 1189-1211. Retrieved from https://www.ejmste.com/download/stem-learning-through-engineering-design-impact-on-middle-secondary-students-interest-towards-stem-4714.pdf
- (2019) Students’ engagement in different STEM learning environments: integrated STEM education as promising practice?, International Journal of Science Education, 41:10, 1387-1407,