we desire for students. At the heart of
STEM teaching are the following ques-
n What should the students know
and be able to do? What are the
enduring understandings they will gain
through these STEM experiences?
n How will I know whether my
students have achieved the desired
results? What evidence of student
understanding will I need?
n What prior knowledge and skills
will the students need to perform effec-
tively if they are to achieve the desired
n What level of integration will be
the most effective to accomplish the
n How will lessons be sequenced?
What resources and materials will students need to accomplish the learning
Developing integrated STEM experiences is
not a linear process. It takes collaboration and
preparation. If you haven’t taught this way before,
it will stretch you as a professional. If you are
a middle school or high school teacher, you’ll
need to think of your content area in the context
of other content areas. If you are an elementary
school teacher, you’ll need to break down those
content silos—for instance, showing students
the relevance of the persuasive writing they’re
learning in English lessons by applying it to
a science topic they have researched, such as,
“Should the buffalo at the bottom of the Grand
Canyon be relocated?”
The benefits are worth it, though. Most
teachers have experienced the feeling of, “I
thought I taught it. I know I taught it. But then
I figured out they really didn’t get it!” In STEM
education, students show you whether they really
“got it” as they apply and connect their learning
to new situations. This application of the disci-
plinary concepts and skills is the real power of an
It’s OK to go slowly at first. Don’t feel that you
need to embrace STEMmania too quickly. But
when you do, you may wonder, “Why haven’t I
been teaching this way all along?” EL
Author’s note: Examples used are from Science Foundation Arizona’s Helios STEM Pilot Schools funded by
Helios Education Foundation.
Bybee, R. W. (2013). The case for STEM education:
Challenges and opportunities. Arlington, VA: National
Science Teachers Association.
Curtis, D. (2002). The power of projects, Educational
Leadership, 60( 1), 50–53.
Friedman, T. (2005). The world is flat: A brief history of
the 21st century. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Fortus, D., Krajcik, J., Dershimerb, R. C., Marx, R.
W., & Mamlok-Naamand, R. (2005). Design-based
science and real-world problem solving. International
Journal of Science Education, 27( 7), 855–879.
Satchwell, R., & Loepp, F. L. (2002). Designing and
implementing an integrated mathematics, science,
and technology curriculum for the middle school.
Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 39( 3).
Retrieved from http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/
Vasquez, J. A., Sneider, C., & Comer, M. (2013). STEM
lesson essentials, Grades 3–8: Integrating science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics. New York:
Jo Anne Vasquez ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is vice
president of Educational Practices for Helios Education Foundation in Arizona and Florida (www.helios
.org). She is the coauthor, with Carey Sneider and
Michael Comer, of STEM Lesson Essentials, Grades
3–8: Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering,
and Mathematics (Heinemann, 2013).
STEM Is Everywhere
Pick up a pen and take a close look
at it. Do you think this is a piece
of technology? If you’re like most
people, you probably answered
no. We tend to think of technology
as just things we plug in; in fact,
however, technology is anything
that is made by humans and used
to solve a problem.
The pen certainly solves a lot of
problems, and it’s very convenient.
Let’s look at this pen a bit closer.
Are there different parts that make
up the pen? How many would
you get if you took it apart? What
happens if you touch the point of
the pen to your tongue?
Do you think that ink would harm
you? (It would not, because this
ink was developed and tested by
biochemists who made certain the
ink was not toxic.)
The physical properties of
your pen (hardness, durability,
and mass) and the way the parts
function together result from the
calculations of mathematicians and
the design choices of engineers
who worked in interdisciplinary
teams to develop it. The humble
pen in your hand is an excellent
example of technology based
on science, engineering, and