STEM is a field that’s rapidly growing in importance in today’s job market. In fact, STEM careers are projected to grow 10.8% between 2021 and 2031, compared to just 4.9% growth for all other occupations (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022). But here’s the catch: only 20% of US high school graduates are actually prepared for college-level STEM coursework (Herman, 2019). That’s why it’s crucial to focus on STEM for middle schoolers. By getting your students interested in STEM, you’ll be setting them up for success in both their future careers and personal lives.
Looking for ready-to-go STEM curriculum designed for middle schoolers? Get started with these introductory STEM unit plans.
What is STEM education?
Many people assume that if you just teach each of these four subjects, you are doing STEM. This is not STEM.
STEM is actually a way of teaching that builds students’ problem solving skills and helps prepare students for learning and working in the real world. Students are presented with a real-world problem and then use the engineering design process along with their knowledge and skills from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to develop a solution.
STEM education emphasizes hands-on learning, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. STEM education is important because it prepares students for the jobs of the future, which are increasingly focused on technology and innovation. It also helps students develop important skills like creativity, collaboration, and communication.
The benefits of STEM for middle schoolers
Middle school is the perfect time to introduce STEM education to students because it is a critical period for their academic and personal development. However, research shows many students begin losing interest in the STEM fields by the end of middle school (Karalar, Sidekick, and Yildirium, 2021).
However, as STEM teachers, we can take steps to maintain our students’ interest in STEM throughout these important middle years. Intentional and engaging STEM programming is one way to maintain student interest in STEM. Students who view STEM positively are more likely to consider STEM careers (Karalar, Sidekick, and Yildirium, 2021). Additionally, STEM education can help students develop important skills like creativity, collaboration, and communication, which are essential for success in any field.
How to create intentional and engaging STEM programming
We know STEM education is important for middle school students… but how do we ensure our students maintain their interest and passion for STEM throughout their teen years?
Connect STEM to. your students’ interests
Middle school students LOVE learning about new technology and are some of the first to join in the latest fads and trends. This makes middle school and STEM class a perfect match. Help students explore new inventions and innovations. Let them investigate the technology that powers their favorite new device or app. Research shows that students who are exposed to innovation as part of their education are more likely to remain interested in STEM (Chetty et al., 2019).
Real-world STEM applications
At its core, STEM education should be based in real-world problem-solving. This makes the work students do meaningful, and helps maintain student interest. Additionally, instructors can plan activities around careers in STEM and introduce students to role models and STEM workplaces through guest speakers and field trips, which can inspire them to pursue their own careers in STEM fields. Students with “STEM mentors and role models are more likely to remain engaged and interested in STEM disciplines,” (National Inventors Hall of Fame, 2023).
Encourage diversity and inclusivity in STEM education
It’s important to ensure that STEM education is accessible to all students, regardless of their background or identity. Encouraging diversity and inclusivity in STEM education can help to address the underrepresentation of certain groups in STEM fields, such as women and people of color. This can be achieved by providing resources and support for students from diverse backgrounds, promoting role models and mentors from underrepresented groups, and creating a welcoming and inclusive learning environment (AAUW, n.d.). By fostering diversity and inclusivity in STEM education, we can help to create a more equitable and innovative future for all.
Middle schoolers need STEM
STEM education is a crucial component of any middle school curriculum. By introducing your students to problem-solving through the application of science, technology, engineering, and math, you’re not only preparing them for potential future careers in these fields, but you’re also helping them develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that can benefit them in all aspects of their lives. From designing and building robots to developing new medical treatments, the possibilities are endless with a strong foundation in STEM education. So don’t be afraid to get creative and take risks in your teaching – your students will thank you for it in the long run
Ready to start your STEM program?
Creating a STEM program from scratch can be overwhelming… Not to mention time consuming! Let me help. These complete STEM unit plans will help your students master foundational skills while having lots of fun.
Each unit includes:
- Digital and printable versions of student activities
- Detailed lesson plans and slideshows for easy lesson facilitation
- Easy-to-use grading rubrics and answer keys
- Suggestions for facilitation and differentiation
What are other teachers saying about the STEM Unit Plans?
“This has been the best unit to kick off the school year! Well-organized and awesome teacher notes for easy implementation!”
“LOVE THIS! It was so helpful when I did not have time to prep. AMAZING resource.”
“This is an amazing resource! The questions are great- and the slides are perfect! My class was totally engaged. Thank you so much for creating this unit!!”
Grab a complete STEM unit today and get ready to inspire your future scientists and engineers.
Here’s to inspiring future scientists and engineers,
AAUW. (n.d.). Closing the STEM Gap. Retrieved from https://www.aauw.org/resources/article/closing-the-stem-gap/
Chetty, et al. (2019). Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation. The Quarterly HJournal of Economics. Retrieved from https://opportunityinsights.org/paper/losteinsteins/
Herman, A. (2019). America’s STEM Crisis Threatens Our National Security. American Affairs. Retrieved from https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2019/02/americas-stem-crisis-threatens-our-national-security/
Karalar, H., Sidekli, S., and Yildirium, B. (2021). STEM in Transition from Primary School to Middle School: Primary School Students’ Attitudes. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1309256.pdf
National Inventors Hall of Fame. (2023). How to Maintain a Child’s Interest in STEM. Retrieved from https://www.invent.org/blog/trends-stem/maintain-child-interest-stem
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022). Employment in STEM Occupations. Employment Projections. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/stem-employment.htm