How to Make STEM Education Fun
Our top tips to make science learning more interesting for students
We have been delivering Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) workshops across the country for the past few years. Below are our top tips to make STEM learning more fun:
Make it practical. Here are some cost effective practical activites we would recommend:
- Free online coding with Microsoft MakCode and BBC:Micro:bit. You can also read our extensive article on how to get started with this here.
- Fire a stomp rocket. Here is a great kit you can buy.
- Check out these practical activities on BBC.
- Build circuits on breadboards. We recommend checking out SparkFun for electronic tutorials on Youtube.
- Build a propeller-driven toy elastic car.
- Take a tour of a science museum or go on a field trip.
- Share STEM videos of related curriculum topics with the students. For example, if you teach children about renewable energy, you can show them these videos by Student Energy on Youtube. It will help students understand how the knowledge they learn in classrooms is useful in the real world, which is a real missing link in today's education.
- Get children to think critically by asking them to evaluate experiments and engineering designs. For example, you can show them models or pictures of aircraft, and ask them how they could design it better for improved performance.
- Make sure the students experience a reward at the end of the activities. This reward may be watching their creation in action or the results of an experiment.
- Engage children in group activities. Constructing KNEX or Lego educational models in groups is ideal for this. Team work is an essential part of science and engineering.
- Check out stem.org.uk for free resources. They have a tonne of free material available for all ages with in depth guides to activities.
If you want a more depth read into how our STEM activities mixed with street-dance bought another dimension to schools, then read our blog post by Vidura below.
Developing Our workshops and School Assemblies
I worked as an engineer for Rolls-Royce, and I also have an art background as a professional street-dancer. In this article, I'm going to discuss how we made Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) fun to learn in classrooms and how teachers can do the same. After leaving my full-time job, I worked in the education sector. I was disappointed with the lack of quality in some school services and the lack of engagement of students in STEM. I had come across many services which claimed to deliver "science" workshops, but some of these workshops had no real science content behind them. Some were very boring. So, I set out to develop a set of STEM workshops for schools that were educational, entertaining and rewarding.
I wanted children to enjoy STEM workshops that were practical, fun and rich in real science and engineering content. They had to include individual activities as well as practical activities. The practicals would deliver a sense of reward by allowing the children to be creative and see their efforts transformed into something tangible. I think this is fundamental to getting children interested in science from a young age. For example, during our sustainability workshop, children learn to build an actual windmill to light an LED. When they see the light turn on, they will receive an instant reward for their efforts. Moreover, getting children to work as a group to build something together will challenge them to work as a team which is essential in the real world. KNEX education models (I have no affiliation to them) are ideal for these as a group of children could work together to build a complex model. It teaches them that when it comes to engineering and science, they have to be able to work as part of a team. We also challenge the children to design different wing blades for the windmills we build. It gets them to think about the performance characteristics of engineering designs. There is no point crafting something elegant if it can't live up to its performance. Therefore, teach children the factors they must account for when conducting experiments or building something. You can provide props or drawings of designs for children to analyse for this task.
Building circuits is also another rewarding classroom activity for children. This task will require simple components such as LEDs, wires, resistors and breadboards. Here is link to a Youtube video where teachers can learn how to build series and parallel circuits. It will tie in well with the national curriculum. You could also make other topics such as forces and motion interesting to learn by building propeller toy cars or firing a rocket. This kit can fire soft rockets hundreds of feet into air. I have used it many times, and the children loved it.
The world is moving so fast due to the growth of the latest technological advancements in machine learning, automation and artificial intelligence. It's also a relatively new field for myself. I wanted to teach children one of the fundamental tools required for these fields. This is why I recently developed a coding workshop for schools. During this workshop, students will learn the basic concepts of coding and programming. The workshop is based around the BBC Micro:bit and mini-robots that can be programmed to avoid obstacles. We also wrote a guide on how teachers can learn to code and how they can bring programming into education completely free. You can read it here.
In addition to these science and technology workshops, I developed the Maths-in-a-Box workshop. The idea behind it was simple. All the items students required for the day would be inside safe-box. The students would learn GCSE and secondary school Maths topics based on real-life applications. The workshop also contains Maths games to make it more interactive for those students who lack the motivation to learn Maths. Here are some ideas from our workshops:
- Use playing cards for probability exercises.
- Experiment to calculate the volume of objects using water displacement.
- Give children prints of real maps and ask them to calculate distances between points using conversions and scales.
We trialled our workshops in schools from late 2018 up until the lockdown. They were a great success. We now have five amazing workshops to offer to schools, and many of the workshops come in different versions for all key stages. But that's not all.
School Assemblies with Street-Dance
Over the past two years, we also developed several school assembly engagements. These engagements are supported by professional street-dancers and this is what makes us so special and unique. If you want an in-depth read in to how to create engaging presentations for schools have a read of this article here. We can bring support dancers to showcase flips, Bboy (Break-Dance) windmills and robotic movements. These movements can link with science topics such as electricity, forces, momentum and more. We always end our events with a street-dance performance (solo or duel). Combining art with science in this way has engaged children in STEM in a unique way. It is amazing to see the effect it has on children during our shows too. Remind children that it is possible to have a full filling academic life while engaging in arts or other hobbies.