June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
15.1176.1 - 15.1176.18
Teaching Inquiry-Based STEM in the Elementary Grades Using Manipulatives: A SySTEMic Solution Report Introduction
Young learners come to school holding myriad conceptions about how the world works, particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM .1-3 Further, young students’ conceptions are commonly based on fragmented knowledge or naïve perspectives that contribute to the importance of early exposure to and practice with scrutinizing situations scientifically.1,3 An important part of helping children gain the skills necessary to approach situations scientifically involves preparing them to conduct scientific inquiry.3 The development of critical thinking skills and scientific approaches to problem solving should begin early in education.4 However, lack of elementary teacher comfort and familiarity with inquiry may be a significant barrier hindering early learner experience with and development of inquiry skills.5 Additionally, although engineering topics are particularly well suited for teaching inquiry, most teachers, like the general public, are not well versed in engineering. Therefore, teachers are excellent candidates for participation in professional development that enhances their knowledge and comfort with teaching inquiry-based STEM curriculum and engineering content in particular.
Recognizing the importance of inquiry for learning STEM curriculum, and the potentially constrained levels of teacher comfort and experience with teaching inquiry, our project team at Boise State University developed a three-day summer institute for K-5 teachers that focused on enhancing their knowledge and skills for teaching inquiry-based STEM. The summer institute was part of a larger project, the Idaho SySTEMic Solution, a multi-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Education with the mission of increasing K-5 teacher understanding, comfort, and capacity to effectively teach STEM content. Further, we were seeking to enhance the teachers’ awareness and ability to apply 21st century skills6 in their inquiry-based instruction. The primary goal of the summer institute was to prepare teachers to teach STEM content using manipulatives, PCS BrickLabs®. During the summer institute the teachers gained experience with the BrickLabs®, developed and explored content aligned with STEM learning standards, engaged in activities that applied 21st century skills, and prepared to use the BrickLabs® to teach STEM concepts to their students. In addition to the professional development, the teachers were provided with curricular support materials (lessons activity books) as part of a PCS BrickLab® for each classroom to implement inquiry-based STEM lessons. PCS BrickLab®, supplied by educational products company PCS Edventures!, contains more than 5,000 Lego®-like construction bricks.
An important aspect of this project is investigating the effectiveness and influence of this professional development on teacher practices. Given our focus on inquiry during the summer institute we were interested in determining how the teachers were implementing inquiry-based instruction and what structure the inquiry took in their lessons, and the associated applications of 21st century skills, in particular collaboration. To answer this question we conducted classroom observations of all 38 summer institute participants teaching STEM lessons using the manipulatives. Our project is unique with respect to the extent of our data collection: 38 K-5 teachers teaching STEM lessons. The extent of our research allowed us to report both
Nadelson, L., & Hay, A., & Pyke, P., & Callahan, J., & Schrader, C. (2010, June), Teaching Inquiry Based Stem In The Elementary Grades Using Manipulatives: A Systemic Solution Report Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. https://peer.asee.org/16395
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