Some STEM teachers do it naturally.
They seem to have a sixth sense about how to design and implement STEM classroom learning centers. These teachers are brilliant when it comes to thinking up centers that their students can’t wait to use. Learners are actively involved in explorations that spark curiosity, and the excitement of learning is palpable.
The room is abuzz with on-task conversation, and none of the students are off-task. To top it off, the teacher is relaxed while facilitating student learning. This is the kind of environment you’d like in your own classroom.
What if creating classroom learning centers for STEM was easy?
Learning centers are nothing new in education, but STEM activities have revitalized a traditional classroom staple of instruction. Young children especially benefit from STEM learning centers. They are natural inventors and explorers who want to figure out how things work.
All students can benefit from STEM learning centers, and these are a sample of what’s available in the classroom.
There are plenty of easy-to-create centers like the Tinker Workbench that will have your students focused on fun projects. To attract the inventors in your classroom, collect items that can be put together like nuts and bolts, lids and caps, and basic tools. You probably have some of the supplies in a junk drawer at home. Gather the odd bits and pieces you find and toss them in an assembly box. Ask your students to build creative models or machines.
Similar to the Tinker Workbench, an Energy Workstation encourages students to explore how electricity works. With an assortment of batteries, wires, alligator clips, and light or bells from which to choose, students can configure wiring to send an electrical current to devices. Add in small solar panels, wind power, and hydraulics to let learners compare a variety of power sources.
Write about it
The writers in your classroom will appreciate having an area where they can reflect on what they have learned by writing their thoughts. Encourage students to maintain an interactive notebook or provide them with colorful paper to insert in their notebooks. At the Writer’s Center, make available plenty of markers, colors, stickers, sticky notes and whatever else your STEM students need to record their observations.
Any STEM learning center can be adjusted for the age and interests of the students involved.
The benefits of STEM learning centers
The Tinker Bench, Energy Workstation, and Writing Center support academics through hands-on discovery learning. Students who actively create are more likely to remember what they’ve learned.
STEM Learning centers also encourage the development of the whole child by teaching social and emotional awareness. The many benefits include:
· Relaxation in a stress-free environment
· Learning from failure
· Development of self-regulation skills
· Making learning connections
· Acquisition of collaborative skills
Teachers can implement STEM learning centers in any classroom. Establish protocols for center use. Designate a specific area for the center, explain the purpose of the center, and then keep it stocked. Then be amazed at the discoveries your students make.
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