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STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) based learning is quickly gaining momentum among school districts. Every child enjoys taking things apart, seeing how they work and building things—they are natural-born engineers. Little Elm ISD recognized the need for students to explore and expand their learning and decided it was time to incorporate real-world, STEM-based lessons starting in elementary school. Building a program of this magnitude doesn’t happen overnight, but Little Elm ISD used the same step-by-step engineering design process taught in the classroom to ensure success across the District.
Step 1: Ask What is the problem?
In 2014, Little Elm ISD built a K–8 campus, Prestwick, where all elementary-aged students are given 30 minutes a day to learn about the engineering design process. This STEM-based curriculum was not offered to every student in the District. Little Elm ISD already provides STEM-career pathways to students in middle school and high school. But the District felt it necessary to take it a step further and introduce STEM to the other elementary schools. By doing this, students can begin exploring a career in STEM before they reach middle school.
Step 2: Imagine What are some solutions?
With hundreds of program options available to schools, Little Elm ISD has experienced success with a program that engages and encourages every student to explore the world of STEM without feeling discouraged and has helped them break the stigma that “STEM isn’t for everyone.” Recently, Little Elm ISD decided to continue using EiE (Engineering in Elementary), the nation’s leading engineering curriculum for elementary schools, to incorporate in their 4th- and 5th-grade lesson plans for the 2018–2019 school year.
Step 3: Plan Next, you draw a diagram; lay out the plan.
Little Elm ISD knew what they wanted this program to accomplish: Keep the curiosity of engineering in every student as they progress through school. This is hard to accomplish through a traditional lesson plan that limits imagination, which is where EiE takes the lead by providing training to each teacher and helping integrate real-world engineering problems through lessons in English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Mathematics—not just Science. Each unit starts with a storybook and encourages teamwork, collaboration and imagination.
Step 4: Create Now follow your plan, and create something.
By following the EiE curriculum, Little Elm ISD has been able to see significant success in their elementary school STEM program. Students are involved, interested, understand the importance of engineering in the world and are able to foster their own ideas about how science and technology can be incorporated into their everyday life. By working with groups on real-world scenarios and creating a solution together using everyday materials, they are able to see that the subjects can be creative, fun, engaging, and rewarding.
Step 5: Improve The last step of the process is to ask: What could work better? Then modify your design, and test it again.
As District leaders analyze how the roll out of STEM-curriculum to elementary campuses went this school year, they recognize there is always room for improvement and innovation. Each year, leaders will evaluate grade-level implementation as the STEM-based curriculum progresses in the school system.
Why choose Little Elm ISD?
While some schools incorporate STEM in certain grade levels, Little Elm ISD has implemented a plan to roll STEM curriculum and resources into every elementary grade level over the next five years. In addition to STEM curriculum, students have had access to a well-rounded education for years. Tatum Mowrey, a senior at Little Elm High School, elaborated on her experience and how it has shaped her future:
“I can confidently say that I feel nothing short of engaged, equipped, and empowered after my time in Little Elm ISD. I truly believe they have fostered an environment in which students are encouraged to follow their passions and curiosities wherever they may lead. As STEM careers become more prevalent, Little Elm ISD has adapted, giving their students a head start in the field as young as elementary. There is no doubt in my mind that this school district has nurtured a few future world-changers!”