Planning for a successful post-COVID academic year means taking stock of what STEM instruction might look like in the fall

3 critical STEM action-items for administrators

Planning for a successful post-COVID academic year means taking stock of what STEM instruction might look like in the fall

Like other subject areas, STEM instruction undoubtedly looked very different this school year. From virtual teaching to new safety protocols if students returned to science labs, students and educators alike had to make adjustments.

With summer approaching, now is an opportune time for administrators and science department leaders to work collaboratively with educators to examine what worked and what didn’t, to close the year out safely and on a high note, and to start to envision what STEM instruction will look like in the fall.

Below are three STEM-related action items that should be prioritized during this time.

Secure science classrooms and labs. As the school year draws to a close, making sure all science classrooms and labs are safely secure for the summer months, when they likely won’t be utilized or utilized heavily, is extremely important.

This should include, but not be limited to, conducting a chemical inventory and making sure all chemicals are labeled and stored properly; removing any chemical wastes; covering all microscopes or classroom technology to avoid dust accumulation; unplugging all devices or electronics; and inspecting all hardware to see if any needs to be replaced.

Providing educators with a checklist of end-of-year safety tasks will also make sure nothing has been overlooked.

Purchase for next school year. Going hand-in-hand with securing labs and taking an inventory of technology is identifying – and purchasing – any urgently needed back-to-school supplies. And, if you are going to have students work in smaller groups this coming year, you may need more of these supplies, from PPE to lab equipment, to accommodate this. Ordering these items to arrive before students return to school will ensure the science program kicks off strong in the fall without any delays.

Administrators should ask for a documented list of end-of-the-year science department needs from educators before they leave for the summer. Administrators can then prioritize the lists, set budgets as needed, and then work with trusted vendors to procure the items.

Brainstorm ways to enhance STEM instruction. Summer is all about planning and this should include thinking about how STEM education can be enhanced moving forward.

For example, while this past year was certainly challenging, virtual STEM instruction was one innovation that emerged. As my colleague Dr. Alan Downward explained, this has given students more access to STEM and provided opportunities for them to interact with STEM experts, as well as firm up their understanding of math and science concepts. So, think about how virtual STEM instruction can continue to be strategically implemented moving forward.

Or, if one of the goals is to have more dedicated time for hands-on experimentation this coming school year, put together recommendations on how to do this. This could include having teachers ask students to watch STEM videos at home and work through examples, and then come back to class with questions and observations they may have.

Even as the current school year closes out, STEM should remain a focal point and these three timely action items will go a long way in ensuring a safe, organized, and robust STEM program for students and educators alike, both in the near- and long-term.  

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Mike Lavelle
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