Innovation in STEM Curriculum development via interdisciplinary context

Incorporating multiple areas of academia into hands-on STEM lesson plans to better engage a greater variety of students.

Photo of Devyn Curley
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    STOMP partners Tufts University students with school teachers in the greater Boston area to create and implement engineering curricula in the teachers’ classrooms. The Tufts students collaborate with teachers to bring new technologies and innovative activities to the classroom, working to meet the Science, Technology and Engineering component of the Massachusetts Frameworks in creative and engaging ways.  An average STOMP curriculum is 8-10 weeks, consisting of 1 hour long, project based lessons each week. See our site for more info: http://sites.tufts.edu/stomp/, or the Tufts Center of Engineering Education Outreach (http://www.ceeo.tufts.edu/default.aspx)

    As STOMP has drawn university students from different academic backgrounds, there a greater emphasis has been placed on integrating engineering with other areas of study.  STOMP Fellows (the university students) have recently grown from planning individual lessons around this concept to entire curricula.  These curricula have been very successful, and we are looking to incorporate these multidisciplinary aspects further into our curriculum development.

Here are a few curricula examples for context:

Engineering with Famous Americans: Each lesson around a famous American from the student’s biography unit, branching across multiple engineering disciplines electrical, civil, mechanical).

Structural Engineering via Architecture: Teaching students structural engineering by guiding them through the history of architectural innovation. For example, constructing a solution for nomadic tribes to have sturdy, but easily mobile shelters (like teepees).

The Art of Engineering: One of our first pure STEAM curricula, with very engaging lessons such as engineering a drawing a robot, the physics of sound/music, and the chemistry of paint.

    The beauty of these lessons lies within how it engages a wider range of students.  Making the lesson about more than engineering allows students who not naturally interested in STEM to step up and lead in projects, when they otherwise would not contribute as much due to lack of interest in the material.  This lets all students experience different roles within a group project, and builds their confidence.  At the end of a lesson, that history-enthused student can look down at the circuit they made and feel like Thomas Edison, and will think so much more of engineering now that they have this association.

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Photo of Elysa Fenenbock
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Hi Devlyn,
Love this example. You might think about teaming up with Patrick Murray and the "I Need an Expert" idea (https://teachersguild.org/challenge/how-might-we-create-rituals-and-routines-that-establish-a-culture-of-innovation-in-our-classrooms-and-schools/ideas/i-need-an-expert) because they're definitely looking at similar models. Would love to see this carry forward.

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