What do you think of when someone says “STEM”? Legos? Old vacuums rebuilt into robots? 3D renderings on a computer? Steve Spangler of Diet Coke + Mentos Fame and Ellen DeGeneres’ science guru, wants you to think even bigger.
“Stem, Steam, Stream, Stream 2+, aren’t about the products or practices, they are about the people,” says Steve.
What does he mean? STEM is, at its core, about engagement. Steve believes the key to long-lasting student engagement is created when students participate in transformational experiences, not transactional activities.
“Create experiences to allow children to (practice and build) their communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creative skills. They can then ask new questions that start the cycle again.” That is what Stem is. And there are many ways to do that.
Technical disciplines are what we commonly think benefit from Stem. But gone are the days where learning is an isolated left or right brain practice. Creativity and critical thinking are as important in science as they are in writing, art, or engineering. Bridging the sides of the brain is as important as any specific technical skill or creative pursuit.
How Does Steve know? He is a professional development leader for educators on the best instructional strategies for creating experiences that enhance students' critical thinking skills.
Steve started as a science teacher in Cherry Creek Public Schools. He likes to joke, “I used to teach STEM when we called it science.”
While he was a teacher, he began doing science assemblies for schools. In fact, of the 850 schools in Colorado, Steve has visited around 750. During one of his visits, he encountered a teacher critical of his methods. This prompted him to move into professional development, to help teachers learn how to really engage kids.
Steve often sites the research of Peter Benson. Every kid needs a spark. “A spark is something that gives your life meaning and purpose. It’s an interest, a passion, or a gift.” Parents are instrumental in helping their children discover their spark, by simply observing their child, and noticing when something piques their interest.
Children then need a champion of that spark, that might be an instructor, coach, or teacher. Finally, support allows that spark, once championed, to grow.
Besides his work in professional development, Steve has been at the forefront of content creation. His first YouTube channel launched when the platform was three months old. He is now an expert in building a personal brand, has over 1.5 million followers on three YouTube Channels, and more than a billion views. His newest book, “Super Cool Science Experiments” is out in August. You can find him at stevespangler.com