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How does an idea turn into a STEM Solution? This week we sat down with Michelle Fisher, PCS Edventures Director of STEM Development, to talk about the STEM product creation process and everything that goes into creating a engaging student experience and an easy to implement teaching tool.
A product first starts with a need. At PCS Edventures, all of our products aim to engage students and build instructor confidence in STEM. We're always on the lookout for opportunities to meet those goals in new and creative ways. Once we identify a subject needing addition resources or area of emerging careers we try to answer two questions: 1) How do we make STEM exciting and fun for students? And 2) How do we make it easier for educators to teach STEM? It is essential to consider the experience of both the student and the teacher. There are so many opportunities for students to get involved in STEM, but if they are not interested or if they feel incompetent, they may write off STEM before they even know what it is.
Educators are busy. They juggle different classes and subject areas every day, and STEM may be just one of them. Our goal is to make all-encompassing STEM solutions. We take care of sourcing materials, creating lesson plans and writing assessments so educators have all the resources they need to focus on true teaching.
“Our goal is to make all-encompassing STEM solutions.”
Because the teachers and students are the ultimate users of our products, we involve them in every step of development. When coming up with ideas, we talk to teachers about their classes and their needs. When PCS Edventures ran labs around the country, we would learn about student interests by offering courses in diverse subjects which showed us the most popular among learners. This is how we first realized that drones would be a naturally engaging STEM tool. We developed Discover Drones for high school students, then expanded with Ready, Set, Drone! to satisfy interest from the younger grade demographic. Today, we work with a diverse group of teachers to review ideas and products — everything from BrickLAB to Enrichment Programs to robotics and more. By getting their input, we can develop a product that will truly make their job easier AND make learning fun for their students.
“We work with a diverse group of teachers to review ideas and products.”
When we sit down to write a curriculum, it starts with a goal. We ask questions like: What are you trying to accomplish? How can you do that best? What grade level will use this? Will this be implemented in a classroom or after-school program or camp? Who is the instructor? Asking these questions helps us create the best product for the learner. In classrooms, we know that the instructor is an educated professional. They have studied education and earned a teaching credential. Many of them have years of experience, even decades. In that classroom context, we trust the teacher to establish their style and decide how much time to allot to each activity. We design classroom curricula to be flexible resources, adaptable enough to meet a wide range of educational objectives.
“Asking questions helps us create the best product for the learner.”
In summer enrichment and after-school programs, instructors often come from a wide range of backgrounds which may not include professional training in education. Knowing this, our lesson plans for these areas are more scripted. They have detailed instructions regarding when to distribute materials, how much time to allow for each activity and tips for effective teaching — lesson building techniques not included in the more modular and open-ended classroom curricula.
In order to make STEM learning engaging, we customize activities to the subject matter. Some manipulatives are naturally engaging. For example, students love building with bricks. Getting their hands on BrickLAB to follow build plans or come up with their own designs allows students to learn with their minds and their hands. Drones are another great example of this. Students are naturally motivated to learn about the aeronautics and mechanics of a drone when it enables them to become drone pilots, zipping through the sky. Some concepts may be bland when reading from a textbook, but when you teach them in the context of a hands-on experiment, all of a sudden a very abstract concept becomes concrete.
We also try to make our products practical for teachers. Our primary focus is on the aspects that are most important for the student and teacher experience. However, we know that even if we develop a fabulous product that teachers love, it isn’t a useful product if it doesn’t align with educational standards or goals. We strive to create products that are relevant to current standards and will be embraced by school administrators.
Once we’ve written a draft of the curriculum, we have teacher reviewers look over the materials and provide feedback. This is helpful for ensuring that the activities and language are correctly suited to the assigned grade levels and explained in a clear manner.
Our greatest successes happen when educators love a product. This could be indicated by the interest of many teachers or positive feedback from all the customers implementing a specific STEM solution. When asked what her favorite PCS Edventures product is, Michelle started naming a few, then said, “Every time I start looking at a product again, I fall in love with it again. It’s impossible to pick just one favorite. They all achieve different goals and enrich STEAM education in a unique way.”
“Our greatest successes happen when educators love a product.”
PCS Edventures has developed products with you in mind. Take a look at our collections or speak with one of our STEMbassadors to explore the best STEM solutions for your learning environment.
Interested in discovering how to invigorate your learning environment? Download a free Curriculum Sample, peek behind the scenes at PCS Edventures or contact a STEAMbassador at (800) 429-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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