News

How to make elementary teachers stronger in STEM

By Stephen Noonoo, Editor, @stephenoonoo
March 9th, 2015

It’s no secret elementary teachers are often weakest in STEM. Targeted PD can help

stem-teachersDespite renewed interest, calls for funding, and presidential appeals, true STEM integration is missing from a large number of classrooms across the country. And to hear Patty Born-Selly tell it that’s especially true at the elementary level.

“Most elementary teachers when they are placed in the classroom often just don’t feel comfortable teaching STEM subjects,” said Born-Selly, who is the executive director of the National Center for STEM Elementary Education, an organization embedded within Minnesota’s St. Catherine’s University (colloquially known as St. Kate’s).

“They might avoid it or they might teach the bare minimum or they might go on a field trip and think that was their science lesson,” she continued. “But what we’ve found across the board is that teachers really want to be more comfortable with this material and the subject matter so they feel as comfortable with it as with, say, reading.”

Why the disconnect? Limited exposure to teaching STEM during college and pre-service training leads many elementary teachers to soft peddle those subjects in their classrooms, she said. Students, in turn, feel detached from science and math, which may dissuade them from pursuing STEM subjects at higher levels later on.

That’s what Born-Selly’s organization, the NCSEE, hopes to prevent.

Next page: How PD can help