When STEM isn't enjoyable

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Backroads, Dec 17, 2018.

  1. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Dec 17, 2018

    This might be a meaningless observation in the grand scheme of things, ignorant of the same pattern of kids no matter the generation and whatnot, but here goes...

    A couple of teachers at my school put together a little Christmas STEM activity center. A few stations of basic STEM activities of the thought-provoking, open-ended variety, the rest of the school would sign up to go. It was a lot of fun, but oddly enough I had a few students who didn't enjoy it.

    They didn't like having to problem solve. They wanted me to help them more than was reasonable. The activties were "too hard". We're talking about seeing how high you can stack red and green solo cups and making a shelf out of clay and popsicle sticks.

    I didn't make a big deal out of it with them and I figure the activities won't please everyone. But the number of students that wanted to know "how to do it" or "teacher to do it for them" surprised me. One student was autism, so I could maybe excuse the shock of open-ended concepts, but the rest was almost, and I do apologize for this, rather immature. This is too hard, teacher, do it for me. (kid, have fun by sticking sticks and clay together or stack the cups!)

    Have you ever noticed kids who just can't get into that mindset?
     
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  3. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Yes, the students who have practically no problem-solving skills. Without intervention, they have a defeatist mentality and give up without really trying because they have to exert more than minimal mental effort. It’s sad, really.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2018
  4. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Without a doubt, yes. Part of this, I think, ties into the memorization mindset in mathematics: that mathematics is all about memorizing lots of formulas/algorithms/tricks (i.e. key word strategy in problem solving) so that all problems can be solved in 5-10 seconds. I feel as though there needs to be plenty of PD put out there around that lower math ed, and really, more resources around helping students appropriately struggle through learning new concepts.
     
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  5. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    .
     
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  6. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Well, they looked engaged. They wanted to have the end result, just seemed frustrated at not having a clear route for getting it, or wanted it without working for it. Like I said, I didn't expect the program to be everyone's cup of tea, so it could be nothing more than that.
     
  7. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    My own experience is that I'm readier to play hard, mentally as well as physically, where neither my process nor my mistakes will get me shamed. Chances are good that some of these kids have learned that science and math are not places they are allowed to play, and some others have learned that no school subject is a safe place for them to play. I think that's tragic.
     
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  8. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    .
     
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  9. ssgirl11

    ssgirl11 Companion

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    Ugh. We are going through the same situation at school this week. It is "Innovator's Week," and the kids are to work in groups where they are given a scenario they they have to figure out(without the teacher's help), including building a structure. Some kids are really into it, but I would say about 85% could really care less. It's frustrating that kids these days (or at least at my school) can't be bothered to problem-solve, or even think.
     
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  10. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    .
     
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  11. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    With all due respect... I think you're talking beyond the mark of what I'm talking about. I'm not particularly concerned about them misbehaving or even enjoying/not enjoying the project. It's really not a happy/sad issue on my part. This was more of a discussion of why some kids don't enjoy/can't get involved in problem solving. You make good points, but not at the nature of my question. Yes, there's a possibility they weren't engaged, but I feel like you're trying to assure me all is okay and I just need to be happy about it, which is neither here nor there with the question.

    To answer the question, they behaved, with body language and voice intonation and attention span, as if they were excited about the activities. They enjoyed, again observable via body language and voice intonation as well as attention span, looking at other's created projects. Some of them seemed, however, shocked at the idea of not being given clear step-by-step instructions to complete a given preordained endpoint. The impression I got was actually "Mrs. Backroads, I really want to do this. Will you please show me how/do it for me?"

    These kids, if they weren't engaged, would have been off diddle-dallying with something else.
     
  12. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I think that better describes when I'm trying to ask. I don't expect or even want all them to be be super-engineers of the future, but it also seems kids just aren't as interested in such things anymore. (Maybe STEM has become too mainstream or something?) And if they are interested, they seem to want to play it safe with a given instruction.
     
  13. ssgirl11

    ssgirl11 Companion

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    Agreed. Unfortunately, it's a school-wide thing, and I have zero control over it. If I were in that situation, I would definitely want to work alone, because it seems like the kids that actually want to do it are stuck with the unmotivated.

    Agree with the game thing too. Kids seem to be addicted to playing games on their chromebooks, rather than learning and doing something productive. Video games are ruining our society, in my opinion.
     
  14. otterpop

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    This isn't STEM related necessarily, but I've seen a huge increase in the number of students who want adults to just solve things for them. There's been a definite decrease in problem solving skills, at least that I've observed.
     
  15. Camel13

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    I feel like I am pointing out the elephant in the room if I bring it back to kids addicted to cell phones, social media, etc and immediate gratification, because it is way more than that! This reminds me of my recent post about frustration with the low math ability of my Chemistry students as well.

    I would note that with the modeling in science I have been doing (yet another STEM directed learning approach) I found a lot of resistance as well. Because I allowed significant class time and just stuck it out with the students, they eventually found solutions. One of our first 9th grade activities was making a wind turbine that draws up 10 ml of water given a limited set of materials. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy, went through periods of “it is impossible” to finally starting to play and have fun. Every single group designed a unique working model. The biggest win has been them constantly asking when they could do something like that again!

    I think the key with this group was being super patient. That is really hard when you have so much to get through in a year. Students literally have to be taught how to how real fun and play and learn through play. Students rarely truly play anymore!
     
  16. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Fanatic

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    I do STEM a lot, and have gone to STEM workshops. Sometimes in STEM, I am the one in a group where we are doing awesome, but I remember one time in a PD, I really struggled. As I am not use to struggling, that was difficult for me. I was very thankful for that experience as it helped me be more compassionate to the students who get the deer in the headlights look during STEM. STEM is fun because it is hands-on, but it can be frustrating as there can be a lot of struggling before figuring out a problem. In our microwave type society, it makes sense some will feel frustrated.
     
  17. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    I could absolutely excuse the idea that a child with autism would have problems with open-ended, critical-thinking, and problem solving activities, especially at the age you teach.

    Immature people often lack problem solving and thinking skills which make them seem immature. They may have them in some areas, but not all.

    The activities do sound fun, but not for kids who lack certain subskills in a variety of areas. Then you will always have those kids wanting help because they don't want to be the only ones not able to do this supposed-to-be fun and easy task.
     
  18. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    As you said, they might not enjoy those types of activities. Here is a comparison.

    You aren't a great fan of cooking and baking. You aren't familiar with a lot of ingredients. Your principal has a great fun activity for back to school. He has you and all of your co-workers rotate through the cafeteria kitchen to make lunch and dessert. The thing is, you must cook or bake everything. No just cutting up fruit or slapping peanut butter on bread and call it a day. You are given ingredients, some of which you have no idea what to do with them. Have fun! Now remember that you are surrounded by judgemental peers.

    Not everyone will love this activity by the principal. You will have people asking for help. You will have people just throwing stuff together to do the task. You will also have people looking for ways to abandon it all together. Then you will have those who create masterpieces and hopefully they don't rub it in everyone else's face.
     
  19. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    I wonder if we would all feel the same if kids were given instruments where they had to make up a song that sounded good and play it?
     
  20. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    My assistant and I have discussed this issue many times this year. Students do not want to use the slightest effort to think on their own. They want everything handed to them so they don't have to put forth any brain power. We have also noticed a lack of family activities, and a great increase in the use of individual technology (phones, games, etc), and a terrible addiction to social media.
    School and related activities are just not high on the bucket list of most of our families.
    Then, there are the lawnmower parents...don't get me started on those!
     
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  21. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Phenom

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    It could be laziness, immaturity, or just that they weren't interested in the activities. Or maybe all of the above!
     
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