Pathways to effective K-12 STEM programs

Howard S. Kimmel, Levelle E. Burr-Alexander, Linda Hirsch, Ronald H. Rockland, John D. Carpinelli, Marie Aloia

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Numerous inquiries from K-12 educators across the state of New Jersey have indicated that defining and implementing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education has become a challenge to the K-12 education sector. Many of these K-12 educators approach STEM disciplines as if each one exists in isolation from the others and they do not integrate the content and skills of the disciplines that can engage students on many levels. Alternately, they may believe that an engineering experience and/or robotics, i.e. an isolated project, can be considered a STEM program. Our responses have focused on STEM education as an interdisciplinary area of study that integrates the four disciplines rather than achieving skills and knowledge independently in each subject area. A STEM program should also provide students experiences in problem-solving, analytical, critical thinking, teamwork, and communication skills. As a result, students should possess the ability to apply, synthesize, and evaluate their knowledge of how the world works within and across the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This paper describes our approaches with educators that can lead to effective implementation of a STEM program to make connections between the STEM disciplines. Examples of program implementation will illustrate two pathways: 1) Development of an 'engineering track' that begins with an introduction to engineering and engineering design as a problem solving method applied to different engineering problems. This course is then followed by a sequence of modules/courses focusing on different areas of engineering of interest to the educators and their students. This program may be developed as a three- or four-year high school track with the senior year culminating in the University freshman college engineering course for which students can earn dual credit. The content of all courses in the sequence are aligned with the content of science and mathematics courses students are taking or have taken in their high school curriculum. 2) Integration of engineering principles and appropriate applications into the science and mathematics courses offered by the school. Here, students can see the parallel nature of the engineering design process, scientific inquiry process, and mathematical problem solving. Regardless of the chosen pathway, our approach also focuses on the three distinct, but interrelated components of teaching and learning: Instruction, Curriculum, and Assessment of student learning. All interrelated activities are described in lesson plans designed to be aligned with these three components into a coherent process and learning experience aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7044362
JournalProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
Issue numberFebruary
StatePublished - Feb 17 2015
Event44th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2014 - Madrid, Spain
Duration: Oct 22 2014Oct 25 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


  • Effective STEM Programs
  • Integration of Engineering into Math and Science
  • Pre-engineering Curricula
  • STEM Education


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