STEM is an acronym formed from the English words: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. In the European Union it is also known by the name MTS – Mathematics, Science, Technology. STEM is a teaching program integrating the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics in one cohesive whole. During the lessons students also learn critical thinking, stepping outside fixed ways of thinking, posing hypotheses and verifying them through experiments.
At “Primary Steps” our children follow a programme which integrates the four STEM areas, rather than teaching them separately. For example, during a topic on the sun and the moon, the children learn about the movement of the earth (Science). They learn about the different properties of balls and spheres (Mathematics). Finally, they design and make simple sun-dials (Technology and Engineering).
Our STEM programme is based on the CLIL approach (Content and Language Integrated Learning) where academic subjects are taught through the medium of a foreign language, ie English. CLIL consists of four important elements, ie:
- Content, where children are introduced to new topics;
- Communication, involving speaking, reading and writing about what they have learnt;
- Cognitive, where children are introduced to unfamiliar concepts (or familiar concepts in greater detail);
- Cultural, which encourages children to develop awareness of, and respect for the values and attitudes of others, and to recognise the contributions and achievements of people throughout the world.
THE CHALLENGES OF LEARNING STEM SUBJECTS IN ENGLISH
It takes several years for learners to acquire confidence and skill in a second language, particularly in academic subjects. To support those children who are still in the early stages of learning English, activities are planned so that they can play a full part in lessons at their own level. In addition, the use of practical investigations, simplified vocabulary and a wide range of visual resources provide additional support in helping children to understand subject content.