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Making STEM subjects fun: How real-world learning begins in the classroom

An EU initiative helps teachers encourage their students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

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Mention the words algebra, geometry and calculus to some students and you might instantly turn them off. But who says maths has to be boring? Can you tell those students that they can actually lay a dining table using the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden ratio, and explain to them how that table is related to the harmony and absolute beauty found in nature and human civilisation? Yes you can, if you’re a teacher looking for some inspiration to show your students the connection between everyday life and the most dreaded STEM subjects. Thanks to the EU-funded Scientix 3 project, hundreds of teachers had the opportunity to integrate real-world problems into their STEM curriculum by following the Scientix Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) ‘STEM Is Everywhere!’. The MOOC was hosted on the European Schoolnet Academy platform. During the course, participants were able to develop their own lesson plans that everyone can have access to through the Scientix resources repository. A news item on the project website states: “2164 participants followed the MOOC and 853 completed it. Of them, 274 submitted their learning scenario for consideration to be published in the Scientix resources repository. In the end, 36 were selected based on their topics and quality.”

Inspiring themes linked to real-life problems

The 36 lesson plans that are available online are interdisciplinary, and target teachers and trainee teachers with pupils and students of various ages. The plans offer guidance and practical examples with a wide range of resources, tools and strategies for activities that enhance STEM in real life. They also address several 21st century skills such as information literacy, communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, agility and adaptability. The themes range from health and obesity to drones, with titles such as ‘The Mathematics of Healthy Life’ and ‘Drones in our town?’. Some of the other titles listed by the same news item are: ‘A natural pharmacy around us’; ‘Let’s light up the darkness’; ‘Take care of your money!’; ‘My 24-hour time management’; ‘Your physics lab in your pocket’; and ‘The effects of acid rain on cultural monuments’. The MOOC was carried out by Scientix, a medium for collaboration among STEM teachers, education researchers, policymakers and other STEM education professionals. In its first phase that ran between 2009 and 2012, the project developed an online portal to collect and present European STEM education projects and their results, and organised several teacher workshops, as noted on the project website. During the second stage that started in 2013 and ended in 2015, Scientix reached out to national teacher communities to help develop “national strategies for wider uptake of inquiry-based and other innovative approaches to science and maths education.” Scientix 3, the third and final phase of the Scientix initiative, started in 2016 and ended in September 2019. Scientix has been coordinated by Brussels-based European Schoolnet, a network of European ministries of education. The European Schoolnet Academy, the platform that hosted the Scientix MOOC ‘STEM Is Everywhere!’, has recently upgraded its website. For more information, please see: Scientix 3 project website



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