Tackling STEM Fear in Teachers and Students

The acronym, STEM, can shut teachers and students down before they even start if they think they are not good in science and/or math.

Photo of Julie Hummel
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As a former Biology teacher I have often heard kids tell me that they were "not good in science" so that they had an excuse to fail.  I spent time building them up with small successes.  I have been told from my math counterparts that they also observed the same things about students thinking they were "not good in math".  I wish that we could help teachers and students see that STEM isn't just about science and/or math.  STEM is about thinking.  Though some people self identify as being more of a "words" person, a "writing" person or a "creative" person, etc., it would benefit us all if they could see how the free flow of ideas from all perspectives is what builds an authentic and active STEM culture!

[Optional] Synthesize a little! In one sentence, describe something you learned from your empathy exercises or analogous research.

Though some people self identify as being more of a "words" person, a "writing" person or a "creative" person, etc., it would benefit us all if they could see how the free flow of ideas from all perspectives is what builds an authentic and active STEM culture!

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Photo of Erin Quinn

I think that the beauty of STEM/STEAM is that it provides a creative opening into what is sometimes seen as "hard" subjects like math and science. When it shifts towards finding and solving problems in the world, then the disciplines make sense as ways we can solve the problem.

Photo of Chris Good

"STEM is about thinking" might be the best thing I've read all week! Love that so much! 

I wonder what would happen if all those "Words", "Writing", "Creative", "Analytical", "Process", "Daydreaming", and "whatever other category" people all spent some time in one place working together on one thing.

I wonder if they could see that they are all contributors to our understanding of the world - and that understanding the world is one of the most important aspects of STEM.

And I wonder what might happen if 

Photo of T.J. Edwards

I had a similar conversation recently with teachers at my school. Not only is there fear of not being a science/math person, but the acronym itself can seem exclusive. In our schools case we already have a humanities program (all 9th grade students take humanities instead of English & history), so it seems natural to have a STEAM experience along side it.

I was somewhat surprised to realize that only ONE domain/discipline felt left out....world language. Even though there spirit of STEAM is to be interdisciplinary and inclusive, I wonder if the acronym itself is actually exclusive?

Photo of Michelle Fontenot

Such a good point! Sometimes I think it's the rational, logical side of math and science that scares people away, as they assume that writing is a soft, forgiving craft. However, grammar, sentence structure, and the crafting of a well-written argument all conform to a set of underlying rules, similar to the inherent logic of an equation. It is the skillful teasing and stretching of these rules, not ignorance of them, that leads to poetry and calculus. We have more practice with words, as we use them everyday, but it's not as hard to learn the rules of math & science as we make it seem. Children can begin playing with words early, enjoying Dr. Seuss while they are still learning to read, but somehow we delay playing with science until adulthood. You have to have a PhD and your own lab before you can design your own experiments. Maybe if we could find more ways to incorporate the fun side of science & math in lower grade levels, learning the rules of play wouldn't seem so difficult.

Photo of Lesli Brown

I agree Julie! I definitely have seen the same thing in Math. It is interesting to look at STEM as a barrier to opportunity experience. How do we turn those fears (barriers) into opportunities for exploration? I think the creativity in Science and Math in order to problem solve through active and authentic STEM is such a great place to push our thinking!