STEM is an acronym referring to the academic disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Taken separately, the four STEM subjects are defined by the National Research Council as:
Science is the study of the natural world, including the laws of nature associated with physics, chemistry, and biology and the application of facts, principles, or concepts associated with these disciplines.
Technology comprises the entire system of people and organizations, knowledge, processes, and devices that go into creating and operating technological artifacts, as well as the artifacts themselves.
Engineering is a body of knowledge about the design and creation of products and a process for solving problems. Engineering utilizes concepts in science and mathematics and technological tools.
Mathematics is the study of patterns and relationships among quantities, numbers, and shapes. Mathematics includes theoretical mathematics and applied mathematics.
STEM with art added in – because there’s a lot of overlap between making art and creating new inventions – is called STEAM.
STEM education is a sequence of courses or program of study that prepares students to be competent, capable citizens in our technology-dependent society. According to the Brookings Institution, there are 26 million STEM jobs in the US, comprising 20% of all US jobs. These jobs are in computers, science, health professions, engineering, architecture, and manufacturing.
Homeschooling provides the perfect setting for STEM learning. Homeschooled students are free to study the STEM concepts that most interest them, have more time to spend on long-term STEM projects, and are better able to do real-world activities that are often limited within schools. Project-based learning is the best way to study the sciences.
Here are some free open-source STEM lessons from Hofstra University that integrate inquiry, math, and engineering design:
In this rocket-based science unit, students investigate the rate of chemical reactions as a function of temperature and amount of reactant (water and Alka Seltzer). The rate of reaction is timed and measured by the top popping off a 35 mm film canister (Fuji works best). You may want to print out and decorate a rocket template for the launch. If you don’t have any old 35 mm film canisters at home, you can buy a set of Rocket Film Canisters.
This is an upper middle, lower high school activity with strong mathematics and science connections, using informed design to develop a food dehydration system. Additional support material for the activity is included, including many online resources.
This STEM project is fun for aspiring interior designers and architects of all ages, while reinforcing key concepts in math and engineering/ technology. The mathematical areas include measurement, ratio and proportion, geometric reasoning, and percents.