Citizenship

Teaching Citizenship Through STEM

Creating future leaders by fostering citizenship in the STEM classroom

When you think of citizenship, what comes to mind? Paying taxes? Serving on a jury? Voting? Citizenship goes well beyond performing civic duties. Citizenship embodies being a well-informed, responsible, and active participant in society. Dating back to John Dewey, citizenship has been an essential part to educating the whole child. Yet, with an increased focus on testing, this may be falling to the wayside. How can you bring citizenship back into your classroom?

Citizenship through STEM

In our classrooms, citizenship is being formed every day, whether it is the intended focus or not. Citizenship is seen in the school colors students wear to a pep rally. Citizenship is heard each time a student stands up for themselves. Citizenship is felt every time a student helps another in need. But citizenship can be much more!

Citizenship in education highlights three main goals for our students: that they be well-informed, responsible, and engaged citizens. While you may think the best place for this is in Social Studies courses, STEM actually proves to be a perfect spot as well. As outlined in “Science for All Americans,” scientific habits of mind are essential to being a good citizen. We are helping shape learners who can think critically, form arguments, and solve problems. These are all essential for the goals of citizenship.

Try adding citizenship traits into your STEM classroom with these ideas:

Citizenship Trait: Well-informed

CitizenshipWell-informed citizens are up to date with current issues and are able to evaluate problems from all sides. This could be as simple as reading current event articles or watching news clips relevant to your content. You can delve deeper into topics by presenting a controversial or thought-provoking prompt. For example, should fracking be used to release natural gas? Allow students time to research the topic and formulate their ideas. Hold a class discussion, debate, or Socratic circle to showcase what they found. The key here is to ensure that students are finding multiple sources of information that are not one-sided.

Citizenship Trait: Responsibility

Being a responsible citizen is usually linked with civic duties. In the STEM classroom, this can extend to include things such as being socially responsible, environmentally responsible, or ethically responsible. This is another great opportunity to research current issues and hold debates. Should human cloning be legal? What is the best way to get rid of our community’s trash?

Citizenship Trait: Respectful

Respect includes respecting both themselves and those around them. A great way to build respect in the STEM classroom is through collaboration. Have students work in a variety of group sizes and formulations to learn both how to work with and respect the opinions of others. This means not always working with their friends! There may be some struggles along the way, but working together to solve a problem is a sure way to build respect.

CitizenshipCitizenship Trait: Dedicated to Service

Bringing service learning into the classroom is a valuable experience. This can be a one-time event or a year-long project. Start small by taking your class to pick up litter around the school campus. If you want to go bigger, look for things that are meaningful to your students. Participate in America Recycles Day by hosting an event. Collect old cell phones as a fundraiser for a local charity. Coordinate a volunteer schedule at the local animal shelter.

Citizenship Trait: Participant

Similar to the previous trait, being a participant means getting involved with the community. Encourage your students to join a club or student organization at the school. This can also extend to organizations outside of the school. To link back to STEM, ask students to consider how their club or organization could improve the community’s environment, for example.

Check out this website for some more great ideas!

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Alexandra D. Owens

Alexandra Owens is a STEM Education consultant based in Charleston, SC. She taught middle school science for many years and is now completing her doctorate in STEM Education at Texas Tech University.

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