As 2014 draws to a close and we look forward to what 2015 will bring, I’d like to share a simple and fun classroom challenge with you: STEM Curiosity Links. For the past two semesters, I’ve made a point of sharing several STEM “curiosity links” with my students at least once per week. On days I share curiosity links with students, I try to limit myself to just using 10 minutes of class time. I need to set this time limit, because (depending on the class) we can really get into good discussions with lots of questions, and we could take MUCH more time exploring the ideas the week’s curiosity links inspire. While I’d love engaging in long discussions like this with students, and I know they have value, I also understand that my students learn the most when they are actually DOING STEM activities rather than just talking about them or STEM ideas. My students who are working and playing in our STEM “Maker’s Studio” are always especially eager to “get to work.”

These STEM-releated web links are often videos but are sometimes articles I find via Twitter. Twitter lists I view in Flipboard on my iPad or iPhone are my favorite sources of STEM Curiosity links, and they’re easy for you to view and subscribe to as well. By creating a list of similar Twitter users, it’s possible to enjoy an “information river” of interesting content in your own digital magazine. Three of my favorite Twitter lists I use to find STEM curiosity links each week are:

  1. My Twitter List for STEM Innovation (mostly companies and organizations focused on STEM-related products, like 3D printers or DIY kits like Little Bits)
  2. My Twitter List for STEM teachers (almost all these folks either teach STEM or are STEM program coordinators)
  3. My Twitter List for Astronauts (past and present – 39 strong and growing!)

Here are some of the reasons you should start sharing STEM curiosity links with your own students in 2015:

  1. They provide a quick way to inspire student curiosity and questions about diverse subjects.
  2. There are incredible, short videos available for free online today which are not part of your formal curriculum, and students might not ever experience / be exposed to these without your “curiosity links” class time.
  3. We need to regularly encourage students to BE CURIOUS and ASK QUESTIONS, not just answer questions in class or for class / for tests which other people have already answered “correctly.”
  4. All classroom teachers have important roles to play to inspire our students to be interested in STEM careers.
  5. This time in class might become the best part / favorite part of school for some of your students, as it has become for some of mine.

Here’s an example of how I found a link today which I’m adding to the curiosity links I’ll share with my students when we get back to school next Monday.

This is a screenshot from my Flipboard app earlier this evening. You can see one of the channels to which I’m subscribed is “STEM Teachers,” a Twitter list I maintain. (And you can subscribe to as well if you want.)

Next, here’s a screenshot of the recent “magazine-ified” Twitter list posts from my STEM Teachers list, created by the Flipboard app on my iPad. I flipped through several pages of posts until something caught my eye. In this case, it’s a post from Wired retweeted by Jamie Lesesky, to the article “The Year’s Most Awesome Photos of Space.”

I clicked on the link to view the article, posted it to my own Twitter account with the hashtag #STEM, and then added it directly to the Google Site I use for STEM Curriculum including a separate page for our class curiosity links.

I think it’s great to have a single website where you add new STEM curiosity links each week, so students can refer back to them and find them from a computer or tablet at home. Last semester I had students in many of my 12 classes each week tell me they had shown one of their parents a video we’d seen during “curiosity links” time, or that they had watched again on their own at home. This isn’t “student accountability data” which will show up on a standardized test, but it’s vital feedback for me as a classroom teacher. It lets me know some of the ideas we’re discussing and experiencing together in class is having an impact on my students, at least enough of an impact that some of them want to share the videos and ideas with their parents. I LOVE IT when this happens!

On Friday, December 19th, I recorded the curiosity links I shared with my students using one of our classroom iPads and the tripod/tripod mount we use for our “Maker’s Studio” Green Screen center. This was a class of 4th graders. Since this was our last class together and our last time to have “STEM curiosity links,” I took 20 minutes of class time instead of the normal 10. If you watch the entire video, listen for how multiple students chime in with “connections” they were making to prior experiences in their own lives. This is learning: making connections with new information to past schema we’ve previously created through lived experiences. I love it!

Please consider sharing STEM curiosity links with your own students in 2015! It’s a straightforward and relatively easy way to try and inspire curiosity, questions about science and technology, and encourage your students to think about how they might want to learn more about STEM fields in the future! If you do share curiosity links with your students in 2015, please let me know via a tweet or a comment here.

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