STEMZ’s (pronounced Stemzies) were originally created for teachers who recognized that students in their science class did not understand many basics of math, such as fractions and rates. They were then used as part of a remediation summer school math class to introduce students to some science terms they would encounter the following school year. Either way, STEMZ’s are a great addition to any math or science class for review, reinforcement, and/or transference of knowledge emphasized in class.
Though I do love sports and am a coach, I have noticed that unfortunately, students will place a ton more effort into their sport, rather than their studies. For this reason, I have modeled the structure of a STEMZ to mimic students’ sports practices. The four components of a STEMZ are as follows: Skills and Strategy, Practice As You Play, Pre-Game, Are You In It to Win It?, and Game Time!. The incentive for student practice is so that they can do well in the big game. In a STEMZ, “Game TIme” is the final activity or competition. It is usually an engineering challenge or a race of some sort. Students tend to love these kinds of activities and the activities will hopefully be a motivator or reason for learning the skills.
Before “Game Time!”, however, the students need to learn the “Skills and Strategy” that will be needed in order to be successful in the competition. In this portion, a teacher can introduce concepts for the first time, or use it as a review for concepts learned during the week. The second portion, “Practice as You Play”, is just that, where students would try to get better at this skill. “Pre-Game” is designed as an assessment where students would determine for themselves whether or not they understand the concept. This can count for points, but it is best used as a self assessment for the student, which is more motivating. Any assessment that a teacher already uses will work. STEMZ's compliment your curriculum.
The time frame for STEMZ’s is determined by the teacher, depending on how it will be utilized in a class. For a review on topics or for easier topics, a STEMZ could actually be used in one class period. If the skill(s) is new or more difficult, the “Skills and Strategy” portion could take the entire class period. The next class period or two would be used for practice (Practice As..,) and self assessment (Pre-Game ..,). After school, could possibly be used to help struggling students understand the material so they would be ready for “Game Time!” the following day. It is my hope that it will be the motivation to get students to come in for additional help.
A STEMZ does not give full instructions on how a teacher should teach the skill or strategy. It is assumed that all teachers have their favorite ways of presenting the material. The goal of a STEMZ is to add a little incentive for learning the skill. A STEMZ will offer examples that might aid in the skill presentation. It will define science terms for math teachers. It will define some math terms for science teachers. It will offer suggestions on how to connect the math skills to the science skills and vice versa. This might be the most difficult job for teachers, so a STEMZ will try to fully support this aspect. It will offer suggestions as to the type of assessment questions, but once again, you teachers know what you want your students to learn. Lastly, it will give detailed instructions on how to implement the “Game Time!” activity. What will be provided is a list of materials, suggestions on how to group the students for the competition, tips on how to make the competition go more smoothly, and ways to determine a winner. This will hopefully will be a rewarding and fun way to get students more into their classes, thus, helping them to actually want to LEARN the material.