Our country’s education is rapidly shifting towards the teaching of STEM. But what is STEM? STEM stands for Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics and integrates these disciplines into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real work applications.
The emphasis on STEM though does not aim at deemphasizing the humanities. Rather, it aims at helping students think critically and develop skills that can be employed across disciplines.
In order to increase the opportunities for students to engage into STEM, this year the math and science departments have been fused into one, the STEM Department. For the first time at Verbum Dei, students are engaging in a STEM fair through which they learn about and apply the Engineering Design Process. Engineering is the creative process of turning abstract ideas into some sorts of products or systems. What distinguishes engineers from poets, painters or sculptors is that engineers use their creativity to meet human needs or solve problems. Upon selecting a topic of interest and becoming experts on it, students generate multiple solutions to that need or problem. For example, in our science classrooms students are building more efficient water filters, safer helmets, faster computers, longer life batteries, etc. and they explain their work both verbally and in a written form. As you can imagine, this is a challenging project that requires students to think, plan, create a product, revise it or even consider a different solution. One of the lessons students learn in this project is to learn from their mistakes (engineers revise their model and products everyday!).
In parallel, the STEM Department continues to pair up with the Theology Department in encouraging students to reflect on important ethical issues. Topics such as prosthetics, stem cells, healthy vs. unhealthy food, and organic food have been object of discussion in biology so students will be equipped with a stronger scientific foundation before exploring these same topics with their theology teacher.
Last, sophomore students are about to engage in a cross-curricular project that was successfully initiated and implemented last year by the History Department. For this project, students are asked to collaborate, investigate a theme and make connections to all disciplines (including STEM!). Results will be presented at the end of the year in front of teachers and parents in a “science fair” set-up.
Our hope is that students will be able to use their knowledge and skills to get a better understanding of the world around them and become well-rounded citizens.