In such a rapidly evolving, tech-driven world, introducing STEM education — a curriculum focused on teaching science, technology, engineering and math — to students at a younger age is becoming a more prominent priority in the classroom.
This type of learning strategy has taken academia by storm and caused teachers to rethink their teaching methods and redesign the structure of their classrooms. STEM education has even revolutionized school furniture design, as teachers learn the importance of collaborative, active learning. It’s safe to say, there’s much more to STEM than just a catchy acronym.
What Is STEM?
Dr. Judith Ramaley, a former director at the National Science Foundation in the U.S., coined the term STEM in the early 2000s. As Ramaley explained it then, science and math should serve as bookends for technology and engineering. Science and math are fundamental to an understanding of the universe, and engineering and technology are the means by which people interact with it.
Conventional curriculum is a little like an à la carte menu, while STEM education is more like a combo meal; it integrates the core subjects into one comprehensive learning experience that provides real-world knowledge. STEM involves critical thinking, combining knowledge from several subjects and solving problems as a group. It’s about asking lots of questions, sharing information and exploring many different paths to arrive at the same answer.
Basic maths and sciences like algebra, calculus, chemistry and biology, aren’t going anywhere; STEM teachers simply put greater emphasis on how these subjects are applied in the real world. For instance, some of today’s students are exposed to computer coding around the same time that they’re mastering long division.
Technology and engineering continue to evolve at lightning speed, so there are more options for students than ever. Tech students might explore medical robotics, live captioning or digital media presentation. Engineering is fairly new in high schools, but curious teenagers are given the chance to make digital musical instruments or even cell phones.
There’s a growing movement in STEM to incorporate training in the soft skills. Geometry class doesn’t really cover teamwork, ethics or communication. Many STEM programs also offer art, humanities and social science courses to engage students and spark creativity. In STEM, learning is hands-on, conclusions are evidence-based, collaboration is common and group discussions are lively.
The Importance of STEM Learning
STEM isn’t just a clever ploy to keep kids awake in chemistry class; it’s increasingly necessary for students who hope to thrive in their future workplace.
By blending the four specific disciplines, STEM education teaches a number of skills that are critical to success in the fastest-growing career sectors, most of which are becoming STEM-related. Examples of these include health care, app design, cybersecurity, analytics and financial planning.
Employers looking to modernize have their pick of job seekers from around the globe. They want well-rounded innovators who readily embrace change and easily adapt. Fortunately, Canada has emerged as a world leader in education and teachers take on the initiative of improving STEM learning for younger students. The new way of learning is expected to become more widespread as STEM-based job opportunities remain in high demand.
The Best Classroom Furniture for STEM
A classroom environment that promotes group discussion, project-based learning and teamwork needs to be mobile and adaptable, and the furniture must be reconfigurable at the drop of a hat. It’s tough to huddle in groups of five or six when individual desks weigh too much to move around. That’s why mobile classroom furniture design is a burgeoning new field. As well, with the increasing method of bringing active learning to the classroom to introduce STEM education, getting quality mobile furniture has become more important now than ever.
Here are some of the best options for STEM furniture in the classroom:
Since mobility is an integral part of active learning, everything in a STEM classroom from the chairs to the desks should be mobile, whether that means movable or simply collaborative. The latest desktops are modeled after pie slices with the narrow, tapered tips pointing away from seated students.
This kind of configuration allows students to easily form a tight circle for brainstorming with the tips of their desks meeting at the center. Mobile desks are not only versatile and convenient, but they encourage all students to participate in the discussion. STEM learning also involves the use of science tables that should have large, durable surfaces that can stand up to heat or chemical spills.
Since introducing STEM to a classroom can be overwhelming for students who aren’t familiar, this kind of collaborative furniture allows them to work as a team and become accustomed to the new learning method.
While having mobile desks is effective to encourage group work, mobile seating ensures students are constantly active and engaged with the new STEM curriculum.
Classroom chairs should be sleek, lightweight and ergonomic, with the ability to move around due to their light weight or wheels. Stools used in the classroom for STEM labs should be easily adjusted to different heights as well as having mobile capabilities. Baby boomers who recall the rigid wooden seats of their youth might resent the casual sofas for lounging, but STEM learning is all about freedom of movement.
Digital capability is to modern classrooms what chalkboards were to one-room schoolhouses. Media tables accommodate several students, and everyone has an unobstructed view of a large monitor. This incorporation of digital learning to the STEM classroom is also crucial to engaging younger students and promoting active learning. The ability to access data is also crucial to modern learning, so this kind of classroom furniture should allow students to keep their computers or tablets powered up with furniture built for connectivity.
Major group STEM projects are rarely finished in a day, and some can make a huge mess, especially when you consider what is needed for science or engineering lesson plans. Customizable storage units in various sizes keep materials organized and out of the way, while still allowing students to have fun. Needless to say, most mobile classroom furniture is fitted with mobile storage containers, tech tub trolleys, casters and storage cabinets, typically in a range of eye-catching colours.
Parents of a STEM student may be baffled by their kid’s sudden interest in astrobiology, viticulture or bowling industry technology, but those options come to light when several disciplines are blended and the appropriate mobile furniture is used to teach them. STEM works to expose students of all ages to a new world of opportunity, and the introduction of active learning using right furniture encourages them to explore it.