Our Takeaways from OMSI & STEMscopes STEMposium

February 8, 2017


This past weekend, we attended Accelerate Learning and OMSI’s STEMposium, and in addition to some delicious lunch, we had some delicious takeaways. Read our top reflections below!


1. STEM is a lens.

STEM is not a checklist or the pursuit of interdisciplinary units. STEM is a way of looking at our students’ learning and removing the artificial silos we’ve imposed. The real world is full of the intersection of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math… and Art, Communication, Writing, Reading, Learning, and more!

2. The “A” in STEAM may be up for discussion.

It may be worthwhile to investigate what we mean by the “arts” as they pertain to STEM. Do we simply mean having students paint a picture of the water cycle? Or do we mean that students should be using the latest Adobe product to animate data from an experiment? We don’t have the answers here, but we’ll start at STEMtoSTEAM.org.

3. The “T” in STEM may be more complex.

Do you know the definition of technology? Is it simply the iPads in the classroom, or is it the glasses you’re wearing as you read this? Are all innovations technology? Is all technology innovative? Imagine the discussion you could have with your students on the definition of technology, and imagine the change in perception that might bring.

4. Our students are “Science Language Learners.”

Think back to how you learned your first language. You likely didn’t learn the concept of “lemons” before you encountered one. So why are we introducing our students to “condensation,” “momentum,” “centrifugal force” before they authentically encounter it? Consider withholding the definitions that are central to your unit until they become central to the conversation.

5. Give students the tangible first, the abstract second.

“Concreteness fading” is a concept that indicates students will best grasp an abstract concept after they have had a hands-on experience with its tangible counterpart. Yet if this is true, why do most hands-on labs occur towards the end of our units? If you want students to learn about nutrition, begin by putting the building blocks of food—literally—in their hands. Learning the chambers of the heart? Start with a 3D model rather than a 2D drawing. It’s then easier to move to more abstract representations as the unit progresses.

Next up, we’re heading to IntegratED PDX! Will we see you there? Any other events in the Northwest we should attend? Let us know!