The STEM and PBL approach to learning at TLC

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Acronyms abound in 21st century life and are especially true in education. STEM and PBL are two prime examples.  STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics and PBL stands for project based learning. Students at The Learning Center charter school are very familiar with each.

A targeted STEM education approach ensures students engage in science, technology, engineering and mathematics regularly. PBL  is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, complex question, problem, or challenge.

Learning Center charter school students engage in STEM and PBL education daily.

For example, students in sixth grade have been recently learning about pollinators and their essential role in agriculture. Animal pollinators, especially bees, are critical for producing more than one-third of U.S. food products. In addition to bees, other pollinators, including butterflies and moths, beetles, flies, wasps, birds, and bats are necessary for pollinating more than 80% of plants in nature. The class has spent time learning this via lessons and special presentations from USDA guests but science teacher, Jessie Karageanes, amped the learning up by being sure to inject STEM into the lessons. The students have gone on to design and build 3D models of pollinators based on what traits an efficient pollinator needs to thrive. “Students learned the science related to pollination,” said Karageanes, “but designing and building actual 3D models of their fictional pollinators made the lessons really sink in. Plus, the valuable skills of designing, building, trouble shooting and redesigning are practical skills for everyday life.”

Science students in eighth grade, also taught by Karageanes, have been immersed in a project based learning (PBL) scenario where they are trying to determine what a mystery disease is and how to handle it from a community perspective. Students are taking on the roles of county health officials by diagnosing the disease, creating an action plan to stop the spread of the outbreak, and educating the public on disease transmission.  This mystery disease scenario is allowing these students to not only learn the science of disease but also a community response to manage it. Karageanes says, “The level of engagement these students have to this scenario is impressive.”

STEM and PBL are not just acronyms at The Learning Center. These teaching approaches are utilized daily and ensure that in every subject, elective and event at the school, teachers are reinforcing to students that the subjects they learn in the classroom have practical, real-world application. They provide a means for integration across the subjects and allow students to better understand through the physical act of doing.

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