At Benton STEM Elementary, we approach teaching and learning from a STEM Education mindset. We believe students learn best when they can engage in hands-on learning experiences across content areas. While there are possibly teachers at other buildings who also approach teaching from this mindset, it is greatly dependent upon teacher preference. At Benton STEM, all of our teachers in all content areas and specialties use a STEM Education lens when planning and teaching.
To us, STEM Education is all about the practical application of what students are learning and the natural integration of content areas.
We want students to understand how they can apply what they are learning in the classroom to the real world. We try to introduce and expose students to a wide range of jobs and careers that directly connect to the content they are learning. We frequently ask community members to engage with our students through guest speaking opportunities, virtual visits, or field trips.
As an example, when our students are learning about weather and climate, we might introduce them to meteorologists or climate researchers. When our students are learning about our city government, we might ask speakers from the City of Columbia to come in or take our students on a trip to city hall.
Our program is also unique in that our teachers collaborate and develop curricula and lessons that are integrated across content areas. We want our students to understand how reading, writing, math, science, health, social studies, engineering, and technology are connected. In this classroom, this often looks like content or resources are being used across subjects.
For example, when our 1st-grade classrooms are learning about light and sound in science, they will be doing hands-on exploration during their science time. Then, their reading time is spent reading non-fiction books about light and sound concepts. During writing, they might complete an informational writing piece in their writer’s or science notebooks.
In designing our curriculum, we start with looking at the big picture of how all the units of study in each content area fit in our school year. We have developed a year-long planning guide for each grade level that outlines the key units of study. You can find the year-long plans below for each grade level.
Another area that makes Benton STEM different is the exposure to engineering concepts in all grades kindergarten through fifth. Our teachers have worked hard to incorporate the engineering design process into their classroom instruction. One way this is done is through the integration of engineering design challenges at the end of each science unit. It provides students with a way to practically apply the science concepts they learned in a new context. Each engineering design challenge is carefully designed to follow the engineering design process.