Connecting STEM and social studies can generate student interest across school subjects while helping students understand the relevance of both subjects to their daily lives.
As STEM education gains momentum in parent circles and among students, educators must remain committed to illustrating how prevalent these concepts and subjects are, even in unexpected places. Showcase the links between science and society through connecting STEM and social studies.
1. Meet STEM Pioneers
Ask students to choose a person from history whose work in STEM made a difference in his or her field, but also made these advancements during a time of socio-political change. Students should examine the subject’s contribution to his or her field and also how the time period affected this work, thereby connecting STEM and social studies. Students can study innovators such as Benjamin Bradley, a former slave who bought his own freedom with money earned from his engine designs, or Ada Lovelace, a 19th-century mathematician and member of the British aristocracy, who is also considered the world’s first programmer.
2. Hold a Science Social Studies Fair
In addition to or as a replacement for the science fairs that have been the bane of existence for many generations of parents, assign a project connecting STEM and social studies. Through asking students to explore the other facets of scientific phenomena, teachers are able to seamlessly cover two subjects and expand understanding of STEM as a much more relatable topic. Projects such as uncovering the physics concepts found within a Bolshoi Ballet production will provide opportunities to study the history of the dance company while dissecting the crucial science in this art. Students who examine the algebraic aspects of creating a new Pixar film can describe how a strong mathematics foundation can serve as an asset in many fields while showcasing how the art of illustration has evolved over the last century.
3. Field Trip at the Museum
Plan a field trip to a museum, but organize the visit according to recent lessons connecting STEM and social studies. Plan to visit an art museum and, within the works, ask students to identify geometry concepts they learned. Use a visit to a history museum to study the chemical processes that previous generations used to manufacture goods, cultivate land, and build societies. While visiting a botanical garden, relate lessons in environmental science and ask students to think about the role of the plants within the local community.
4. STEM in the News
In preparation for this class project, have students collect news stories that pique their interest and are relevant to their social studies coursework. During class time, ask students to identify and explain the STEM aspects within one of the stories. In addition to recognizing how STEM plays a role in the story, students should also fully understand the relevance of the story to social studies.
5. How an Idea Becomes an Invention
From vaccines to SpaceX, every STEM advancement must be subjected to trials, government regulation, registration, and promotional campaigns. Ask children to choose an invention from the past that is now commonplace and another that is currently being developed. Students should research the process through which the older invention became ubiquitous in society. They should then examine current regulations and develop a theory regarding how the new invention will move through the process of being approved by the government and accepted in society.
Through showing the relevancy of STEM within the lives of students, teachers can increase interest in these topics. When students are challenged with connecting STEM and social studies, they recognize how scientific concepts can be found within society, thereby expanding their career options.