Website helps students learn real-world value of STEM
A new online platform helps connect students and teachers to real-world STEM professionals in an effort to help students link classroom STEM lessons to careers and how they might use STEM learning in the real world.
The platform, Nepris, operates in two ways. STEM professionals and experts can sign up and offer their services, specifying subject areas they are qualified to discuss. Educators sign up and pick a curriculum topic or student project for which they’d like help from a STEM expert. Nepris connects the two and suggests potential match-ups. All interactions are virtual and recorded for later use, and every student has the chance to submit a question and participate in the discussion.
The impetus to design Nepris came in large part from a “STEM participation gap,” said Sabari Raja, the founder and CEO of Nepris.
(Next page: How one educator is using Nepris for STEM connections)
When students are able to interact with STEM professionals in fun and engaging ways, they start to make connections between what they learn in the classroom and how that learning can lead to college majors and careers in STEM fields.
“In spite of the exposure that technology brings, kids still lack the understanding of what that world of work looks like, how what they learn in the classroom applies in the workplace and what kind of jobs and careers exist that is related to their classroom learning,” Raja wrote in a recent Nepris blog.
Ashere Potter, a fifth grade math and science teacher at Aldridge Elementary in the Plano ISD in Texas, has used Nepris to connect with STEM experts for lessons on measurement and probability.
“When you’re teaching on a fifth grade level, their future is so far away from them that they don’t make the connection to why they need math or science,” Potter said.
During a unit on measurement, Potter’s fifth graders connected with a fashion designer who talked about choosing the right tool for certain functions, measuring, calculating wholesale and resale costs, and working cooperatively with colleagues.
“They’re learning the real-world connection,” said Potter, adding that the STEM experts her students have connected with do a good job of relating to elementary-age students and responding to their questions.
During a session on probability, Potter’s students spoke with a math game developer. Each student brought from home, or had available to use, a tablet device during the session. Students received codes to download the game for free and tested it out during the Nepris session. The developer asked students what they liked about the game and what changes they would make.
Interacting with real-world experts also can engage otherwise shy or withdrawn students.
“If you have a student you can’t reach anywhere else, but you know what his or her interests are, you can schedule a Nepris session with a STEM expert to engage that student,” Potter said.
“As a teacher and a parent, we’ve gotten so much out of it.”