The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and is an educational curriculum that focuses heavily on these subjects. STEM is taught with an interdisciplinary approach to help students connect the dots between these disciplines, and it serves as an opportunity to also connect students to the world around them. STEM encourages a curriculum that is driven by problem-solving, discovery, and exploratory learning, all of which are enhanced when students approach learning through a global lens. Read on for three ways you can bring the world to your STEM lessons.
1. Integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into your lessons.
Think of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a source for real-world problems that your students can examine together. Engage them by providing the context for why certain SDGs are important, and how they connect to daily life where you are and in other countries you may be studying. Not only are students challenged to find creative solutions, but they are also challenged to consider the ways these problems are being tackled around the world.
Are you already teaching your students about a specific SDG? Check out this page for inspiring STEM activities broken down by each Sustainable Development Goal.
An example of effective SDG integration using SDGs 6, 14, and 15 (Clean Water and Sanitation, Life Below Water, and Life on Land), is a lesson around first understanding the animals and plants that make up an ecosystem, then addressing problems in an ecosystem and brainstorming/challenging students to consider ways to create a tool or solution that fixes the problem.
When approaching this specific SDG from a global lens, you can follow in the footsteps of one of our ambassador teachers, Katie Gourlay:
“In looking at SDG 14, Life Below Water, students studied the text to learn how water pollution is affecting the world’s people and animals. Students took a walking field trip to their nearest water source. Students surveyed the water to note any pollution, such as litter, discoloration of the water, or traces of chemical pollution. We then partnered with a classroom in Malawi, Africa, who also surveyed their local water source. By completing this study together, students were able to understand that water pollution is both a local and global issue. Through SDG 13, Climate Action, students then began to find ways to solve the problem by researching ways to create a water filter that would purify the water. Students also created persuasive posters to encourage others to be aware of how water pollution affects our local and global environment.”
2. Connect students to STEM inspiration from around the world.
There are tons of examples of STEM projects being led by teachers, classrooms, and companies in other countries.
When considering a bridge design to cross the Akashi Strait in Kobe, Japan, engineers needed to account for a number of natural elements to design a structure that could safely withstand earthquakes, high winds, and strong sea currents buffeting the towers. As such, scientists, engineers, and architects ultimately designed the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge with a dual-hinged stiffening girder system, allowing the structure to withstand winds up to 178 miles per hour, earthquakes measuring up to magnitude 8.5, and harsh sea currents.
In your classroom, consider the challenges faced by the designers of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and how your students would approach solving for these challenges. Students can be divided into teams and presented with bridge-building tools and instructions. Challenge each team to create the strongest, most durable bridge possible with their tools, then invite school staff in to test the structural integrity of each team’s bridge.
To add a global perspective to this activity, provide examples of famous bridges from other countries and challenge your students to replicate them. In addition, you can also explore the different materials and bridge-building techniques used across the globe with your classroom.
3. Focus on real-world examples when instructing through project-based learning.
Another meaningful way you can globalize STEM lessons is through project-based learning (PBL). Project-based learning allows students to make connections to the world around them while also promoting critical thinking skills and creativity. There are endless real-world topics for your classroom to explore from a global perspective.
PBL can be either an individual or a group effort. If you have younger students, pick a topic, such as climate change, to explore as a class. To introduce the problem, show videos, photos, and evidence of how different climates across the globe have been affected over the years. Then, invite local experts to share with the class, either in person or virtually, what they have implemented to fight climate change. You can even host a virtual exchange with a classroom from another country to learn about how climate change is affecting their country and the different efforts their communities have put in place to protect the environment. After the research phase, brainstorm as a class possible solutions to help slow climate change and put those into action!
Alternatively, allow older students to select topics or world issues that interest them to make their studies more personal. These students can then research their topic, create a solution, and then present their findings to the class.
Interested in learning more about how our global leaders framework prepares students to thrive in the global marketplace? Visit this page to download our global leader infographic, which includes the competencies that are empowering students to think locally, act globally, and change the world.