In today’s technology-driven world, the importance of developing skills in students beyond the monotonous school curriculum has become even more important. No matter which career path students choose in the future, their core competencies will always revolve around critical thinking and problem-solving, and how adept they are in using novel technologies.
Since the foundation of discovery and learning is laid during the first few years of education, integrating STEM topics into elementary education becomes paramount. However, elementary teachers must make STEM topics more interesting to capture students’ attention. For this purpose, teachers must use compelling curriculums and adopt various tools to turn learning fun rather than a demanding and boring routine.
The good news is that teachers can use various interactive STEM tools and incorporate into their classrooms. In this article, we’ll discuss some must-have STEM teaching tools for elementary teachers to enhance student learning and convert their classrooms into a hub of interactive and creative exploration.
Interactive Curriculum, Sports, and Experiment Kits
Kids learn more by observing and experimenting rather than reading text-based books and looking at bare pictures. The best way to ignite interest and love for learning in elementary level students is through hands-on exploration. Interactive STEM curriculum kits help students learn STEM concepts by engaging in experiments alongside the written curriculum. The excitement of predicting outcomes and observing results firsthand makes them curious that traditional textbooks simply cannot replicate.
Besides, STEM sports kits help students learn and explore through sports. It helps students explore the basic mechanics behind sports activities and sports gear. For instance, a basketball kit includes items that kids can use to inflate balls and create simple ball-shooting devices. They can even calculate their shooting percentages, which helps them learn mathematics. Students also learn the science behind each sport and how temperatures can affect a game.
On the other hand, interactive STEM experiment kits help students conduct experiments in the classroom while learning STEM topics. They can build simple circuits to see how current flows and understand basic chemical reactions like the all-famous artificial volcanoes. They can learn concept of mathematics through tactile experiences with number tiles, counters, or geometric shapes. Other experiment kits that teachers can use in their classrooms include:
- Renewable energy kits introduce students to alternate renewable energy sources like solar panels, wind tribune, and hydroelectric generators.
- Geology and earth science kits often include minerals, artificial fossils, excavation tools, and tools for exploring minerals and rocks.
- Solar system models and kits enable students to construct accurate solar system models, learn about planet names, sizes, and distances from the sun, and showcase their orbits.
- Rocket launch kits offer the thrill of building and launching small-scale rockets, which help students learn about aerodynamics and basic physics concepts of motion, force, and acceleration.
Coding Games and Apps
Coding is more or less an essential skill for the next generations, and we can begin teaching basic coding skills from as early as elementary level. STEM tools like coding games and apps help students learn basic program structures and the concept of input-processing-output through interactive games. LEGO and robot kits are also part of coding games, enabling students to program robots for simple movements. These tools and kits nurture a student’s logical thinking and problem-solving abilities.
Students can create animations, stories, and games using interactive coding platforms. It helps them build the basic programming concept, such as taking input from users and generating outputs accordingly. The satisfaction of seeing their code bring objects to life and motivates young learners to become active creators in the future and take on challenging tasks with confidence.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) Simulations
Research shows that visual aids in classrooms significantly improve learning outcomes and help students retain information longer. STEM tools take it further by using immersive technologies like augmented and virtual reality. These technologies are particularly beneficial when studying science and engineering concepts or exploring history. Kids can travel back to the time when the first galaxies were formed after the big bang. They can virtual tour the world’s wonders, visit the Mesopotamian colonies, or explore life underwater. VR and AR simulations transport students to places and scenarios previously confined to books or could only be watched in videos.
Elementary teachers can use AR and VR technology to create customized immersive learning experiences to provide real-life examples of how things work. For example, teachers can use simulations of various ecosystems to explain food chains, biodiversity, biotic and abiotic factors, etc., in multiple types of ecosystems. Children can virtually get up and close with flora and fauna, as well as the microorganisms in a food chain. Similarly, they can use VR devices to discover how spaceships blast off into space and how earth looks from the International Space Station.
Online Learning Apps and Games
Online learning apps and games are perhaps teachers’ and students’ favorite tools. The interactive gameplay can make even the most complex STEM topic enjoyable for kids of all ages, particularly elementary school students. These platforms include interesting videos, games, and activities to teach mathematical concepts and their application in real-life scenarios.
Teachers can create games to grade children’s mathematical and problem-solving skills. They can also use gamification to solve mathematical problems. It will encourage kids to do their homework and practice concepts learned in the classroom. Gamified experiences also help children retain critical information and develop a thorough understanding of the topic in discussion.
The world around us is evolving rapidly, and so is the concept of education. Using the above STEM teaching tools, teachers can create environments where knowledge isn’t just absorbed from books but is lived and experienced firsthand. These innovative approaches allow students to discover their potential and develop essential skills for their future careers.
As we move further into the future, we expect a remarkable evolution of STEM tools. It wouldn’t be long until teachers could use artificial intelligence and natural language processing to make learning easier and more fun for students.