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Friday Focus: Back-to-School STEM Resources for Educators

Aug 30, 2013

Infusing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) exercises and assignments into a teaching curriculum is essential for preparing more students for higher education, especially when data reveal that less than half of the nation's high school students are college-ready. Fortunately, there are STEM-related teaching resources which educators might consider examining during the back-to-school season.

Only 43 percent of high school students are aptly prepared for college, the College Board revealed last year. So it shouldn't be surprising that the situation is grim when it comes to STEM subjects: only 46 percent of students are prepared for college-level math courses and just 31 percent are ready for college courses in science.

Rather than teaching exclusively from textbooks, many educators are turning to lesson plans that instill participation and enthusiasm among students at an early age. As previously reported by IMT Career Journal, unique initiatives to inspire students include engagement through the arts, interactive games, and competitions -- and many of these fall outside the classroom setting.

Here are a few STEM-related resources that can be incorporated into the daily lesson plan:

Science Net Links

Navigating the ScienceNetlinks website is effortless and teachers can find science updates, a "today in science" fact to share with students, and lessons for K-12 both in and out of the classroom. The site, a project of the Directorate for Education and Human Resources of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, features such lessons as earth and moon gravity and how it affects a rocket launching into space.

The site also offers podcasts for students on variety of topics, ranging from immune system molecules to the science behind giant snail invasions. Popular tools for classroom training include a "3D Brain App," which helps students learn about the inner workings of their own mind by "zooming" around 29 interactive structures in the brain.

The site was recently named one of the 2013 Best Websites for Teaching & Learning by the American Association of School Librarians.

eGFI Dream Up the Future

The eGFI site, sponsored by the American Society for Engineering Education, offers hands-on projects for K-12 students, as well as lesson plans created by experts and geared to industry standards. Lesson plans can give future engineers a head start with exercises like "The Dirty Water Project" (designed for grades K-5), in which teams of students can investigate methods to remove pollutants from water. Older students can also take part in projects. For one recently featured activity, "Build a Big Wheel," student teams construct working model Ferris wheels with such household items as glue and tea bags.

K'NEX Education

K'NEX programs prepare teachers for their STEM curriculum with lesson plans and best practices (registration required) for elementary, middle and high school students. This year, K'NEX found a way to instill teamwork and competition among students across the country with a K'NEXpert Classroom Challenge. Using K'NEX building tools, winning teams engineered farms, water wheels, and even an Olympic stadium. The competition fosters science skills while helping students relate to real-world structures.

Some key features of K'NEX education include an inquiry-based curriculum, which encourages students to practice problem-solving and troubleshooting techniques. The curriculum promotes education standards that are aligned to National Science, Technology, and Engineering & Math standards.

Do you know of any helpful back-to-school STEM sites for students? Please share them with us or send a note to writer Beth Goodbaum on Twitter at BethG_TN.