The 21st Century brings with it new challenges which we must face and overcome if we are to survive as a nation. The imperatives of the present and the future require that we create a nation of critical thinkers and problem solvers. To achieve this goal we must change the way we teach to using methods which are aligned with how students learn. It is vital that teaching and learning in the 21st Century embrace the principles, practices and methodology embedded in the STEM/STEAM approach.
STEM/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) thinking is more than the content of the disciplines on which the methodology is based. It is a way of thinking that embraces and promotes multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary integration, collaboration, critical thinking and solving real world problems through hands-on and minds-on activities. The STEM/STEAM methodology was used in the development of teaching and learning activities in the NSC Social Studies Units. In instances where the content of the STEM/STEAM disciplines is evident it is incorporated and used in the teaching and learning activities. The scientific method, the engineering design process, mathematical thinking and technology in its various forms are used where the content of the STEM/STEAM disciplines is not overly apparent.
The Social Studies Units in the National Standards Curriculum are written using, inter alia, STEM/STEAM principles, practices and methodologies, such as:
- Project based learning
- Problem solving
- Developing and using models
- Planning and carrying out investigations
- Analysing and interpreting data
- Using mathematical and computational thinking
- Engaging in argument for evidence
- Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information
Students at the primary and secondary levels are required to design and make scaled models that meet specific criteria. Making a scaled model requires the application of mathematical content and principles such as knowing the units of measurement, converting units, and/or drawing a diagram to scale. Students will have to use the engineering design process to design and make the model to meet the given criteria. The design can be developed with the aid of computer technology or with pen and paper and may involve designing and redesigning until the model adequately meets all the criteria given. These activities are done collaboratively and the process and product are communicated to the rest of the class, school or community.
Using the scientific method, students are presented with or asked to identify problems at the class, school, community, or national level and are then guided through the problem solving methodology in an effort to solve the problem. The problem solving method involves gathering data related to the problem, interpreting and analysing the data, drawing conclusions, making recommendations and taking action to solve the problem.
STEM/STEAM in Social Studies therefore, requires students to apply the knowledge of scientific and mathematical principles, where relevant and applicable, and use available and emerging technologies to solve real world problems.