stem-teachers-80PULLMAN, Wash. – A nationwide demand for STEM-ready employees and emphasis on STEM education means elementary teachers must teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics – even if they have little expertise, or experience, in some of those subjects.

Prospective teachers at Washington State University recently visited the Palouse Discovery Science Center to build their knowledge and learn to use such community resources to supplement their teaching.

STEM-teachers-250“It was really neat to see the way the soon-to-be teachers got excited about all the possibilities the PDSC has to offer as they teach science,” said Richard Lamb, assistant professor of science education.

The students reviewed lessons and learned about the museum’s equipment and how they could use it as teachers, he said.

Supplemental expertise

A high school biology teacher may only teach biology, he said, and may be able to stay up-to-date on best practices and theories. But elementary teachers typically must be generalists – they’ll have to teach a little of everything.

“The state may mandate you have to teach STEM components X, Y and Z, but the teachers have to worry about a lot of subjects and might not get enough time for STEM,” said Victoria Scalise, PDSC executive director. “We can serve as an additional resource to the classroom.”

STEM-teachers-350“What’s really nice about these informal environments is that they’re staffed by experts who can support the teacher and have materials available that are needed,” Lamb said.

Teaching outside the box

Scalise said college students can learn through informal teaching at the center that many of the brain puzzles might have a right answer, but they can be solved in a variety of ways.

“For students going into the teaching fields, it’s a phenomenal way to get them into the mindset that things can be taught in so many different ways,” she said. “Education doesn’t have to fit in one little box.”