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Five Small Steps On Your Own STEM Path To Learning

Welcome to a post that will help you discover five small steps toward better STEM!  This post's author, Lisa Beard, is an amazing educator from the state of Tennessee.  She is also a past STEM Institute Fellow and teaches STEM Chemistry at Fairview High School in Fairview, Tennessee.  Lisa has provided information that  will give you some practical information at bringing STEM ideas to your classroom. Be sure to read  upcoming  Siemens STEM Academy blog posts to discover the other great resources for those interested in integrating technology and real world practice in their STEM classroom! Don't miss out, perhaps now is a great time to sign up for an RSS feed and also follow us on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad. Thanks for joining us at the Siemens STEM Academy and enjoy the post!  - Mike Gorman (21centuryedtech)

Above my office door is a small sign displaying the words “create your own perspective".  These words are a constant reminder to me that there is a greater purpose in educating students than having them meet learning targets and having them perform well on standardized tests.I kind of view my role as a classroom teacher as the mother depicted in Picasso’s  First Steps (Les premiers pas). In this painting, the mother engages herself by bending down to the child’s level. Her facial expression conveys a feeling of purpose and intent. She looks hopeful that her child will blossom on whatever path her child chooses in life. She holds her child’s hand, but doesn't grab his entire hand. She guides and instructs. The child is focused. His eyes are large and eager, but at this point he has no idea what lies ahead. His foot is in motion, toes in air. These are his first steps.

I find it ironic that I liken my role as a teacher to an abstract painting. Classrooms are bound by order--walls, rows of desks, seating charts, learning targets, and tests. However, like the painting, education is abstract. It can take on many forms and go many different directions. True education is relevant and purposeful and should provoke action.  STEM education can play a huge role in this process.  Incorporating STEM education into an everyday classroom environment may seem overwhelming at first.  Like the child in Picasso’s First Steps (Les premiers pas), take small steps at first so you don’t feel overwhelmed.  Eventually, it will become as natural as walking.

Below is my top 5 list of small steps you may want to try with your students to incorporate in your classroom.

1. Create a learning community on Edmodo Education Site.  Edmodo is a communication tool students can use to publish their lab reports, projects, and essays.  In addition, students can take quizzes which are developed by the teacher, turn in assignments apart from student viewing, and receive instructional feedback electronically from the teacher.  Students can also peer review projects and ask questions to each other by replying to posted projects.  In addition to a classroom group, students in my classes have an additional group on Edmodo in which they shared a common lab investigation with students in other schools across the country.  Students communicate their research and design processes, ask questions to one another, make suggestions, and publish their research for peer review.

2. Create a unit using the Legacy Cycle of Learning.  The Legacy Cycle of Learning is a model that provides structure for embedded inquiry in the classroom.

  • It begins with a challenge question.
  • From the challenge question, students generate questions that need to be explored in order to answer the challenge and then they categorize the questions into research themes.
  • Next, let students listen to a short video clip or web exercise that will give them experience from multiple perspectives and allow them to add additional questions to their list.
  • Once there is an organize pattern of what questions need to be explored, it is time for students to research and then revise if necessary.  This is also the instructional phase of the Legacy Cycle.
  • Students either design experiments to test any research hypothesis, or the teacher provides meaningful lab experiments that will add to the understanding of how to solve the challenge project.
  • The last step is “Go Public”.  During this step of the Legacy Cycle, students present their solution to the challenge questions to their peers, teachers, and/or community. Click here for information on the Legacy Cycle

3. Students love hearing from scientists, researchers, and other cool people in the world. Students also enjoy communicating with their peers and sharing a common project. Make it a goal to communicate with others via Skype once a semester.

4. For standards based STEM lesson planning, check out these STEM Resources.

5. Flipping a classroom involves the students listening to instruction on podcasts after school so that more meaningful lab investigations can take place in class.  Videos can be viewed from,, or; or, it can be video lessons you have created for the students.  Include guided worksheets and problems. In class, you can spend time reviewing any portion of the podcast before dismissing the students to their own research investigations.

Remember, taking small steps in creating a STEM environment will lead you toward more natural steps in incorporating STEM into the classroom in the future.  This gives the students opportunities to create their own perspective in what they are learning. Make the most of what is within the boundaries and confines of “school.” Go into teaching in a STEM environment with your foot in motion and toes in air, and make a path for yourself.

Lisa Beard, Fairview, TN

Fairview High School

Lisa Beard of Fairview, TN received her Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and Physical Science from Union University in Jackson, TN.  She is a National Board Certified teacher in Early Adolescence and Young Adulthood with a specialty area of Chemistry.  She is a Research in Education (R.E.T.) alumni at Vanderbilt University spending two summers in the Thin Films Polymer lab and the Molecular Modeling lab.  Mrs. Beard is a co-author of the book Grades Don’t Matter and has written for The Science Teacher.  She currently teaches STEM Chemistry and serves as a mentor to STEM students.  Mrs. Beard states, “Being chosen as a Siemens STEM Institute Fellow is important to my professional development as a science teacher because it will help provide insight on how to lead students to be innovators while still holding students accountable for each learning objective.”

We sure hope you find these five small steps quite useful in a big way.  Don't miss out on future great posts and resources dedicated to STEM education. Now is a great time to sign up for an RSS feed and also follow us on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad. You may even wish to share this post with others via a quick email or even a tweet!  Have a great week and like Lisa's  insightful post...  keep your feet in motion and toes in the air as you make your own STEMtastic Path!  - Mike Gorman (21centuryedtech)

Posted on April 30, 2012 by Michael Gorman

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Meet the Contributors

Mike Gorman

Mike is an advocate for transforming education and bringing 21st Century Skills to classrooms. He was awarded Indiana STEM Educator of the Year and honored as a Microsoft 365 Global Education Hero.
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Lance Rougeux

Lance has been featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer and was recently highlighted in The Emergency Teacher, a book about urban teaching.
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Kyle Schutt

Kyle has worked with educators throughout the country to help them better understand how technology and digital media can be used to support instruction, motivate students, and increase passion for learning.
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