Top 5 Tips to Spark Inspiration and Prepare the Next Generation of Innovators

Innovation is happening all around us in nearly every facet of business, manufacturing, healthcare, and technology. To prepare today’s students to be tomorrow’s innovators, educators must inspire this generation of students to be curious, creative problem solvers — and set them on a path of lifelong learning and discovery.

Below are five key principles educators can use to spark inspiration in the classroom and empower students to be the change agents needed in tomorrow’s STEM workforce.

Tip #1 // Inspire Students with Literacy and Math Integration

What’s the Strategy?

Encouraging students to draw connections to other areas of curriculum is critical to helping them become future innovators — and integrating literacy and math into the science curriculum is pivotal to these connections. Although hands-on and inquiry learning activities are strong components of any science program, it is important for students to have the skills in place to understand informational science text — as well as make connections with the underlying mathematical concepts that often occur. This simultaneous alignment and integration of literacy and math with science supports student learning on a much broader scale. Cross-curricular instruction helps students experience science and engineering as it happens in the real world, where literacy and math skills serve as the foundation for science and engineering innovation.

How Does Literacy and Math Integration Help?

Integrating literacy and math with science can have significant benefits. In regards to math, these benefits have been brought to light by a study conducted by the National Science Foundation[i]. In the study, science lessons were developed in which students were asked to use what they knew about math concepts and apply these concepts to science. These students were exposed to math in ways that were both more frequent and more meaningful throughout the study. The project saw a “statistically significant boost in math achievement for the 8th graders exposed to the lessons, when compared with a control group of students who were not.” Additionally, “student-reasoning skills increased for students in the infusion group above and beyond what would be expected during a typical school year. In essence, students who received math infusion were able to apply their knowledge to unfamiliar situations or contexts.[ii]

Along with the benefits of math integration, literacy integration can have a positive impact on classroom learning. A study of six third-grade classes was conducted to determine, among other outcomes, the impact of a literature-based program integrated into science instruction. At the conclusion of the study, students were tested on both science facts and vocabulary, and the group that had an integrated literature science curriculum scored statistically significantly better than the control group.[iii]

In addition to the benefits mentioned above, this level of integration can teach students how to:

  • Make Key Connections: Students will naturally increase their connections between fictional and informational texts as well as mathematical concepts that apply both inside and outside the science classroom.
  • Develop Multi-Dimensional Understanding: Students can learn how to approach concepts from multiple angles and disciplines, helping apply their learning to real-world situations.
  • Sharpen Additional Skills: Students will develop additional math and literacy skills, such as analysis and using computational thinking to recognize relationships between real-world events, advanced critical thinking and communication skills, honing writing skills when recording observations, as well as improving vocabulary, close reading, and text evidence skills.

How Can I Put Literacy and Math Integration Into Practice?

One way literacy integration can be achieved is through close reading instruction, which boosts students’ comprehension skills, helping them develop solutions to real-world challenges while learning about exciting science content. In a recent webinar titled The Science and Literacy Integration Advantage,[iv] Dr. David Pook (Educational Consultant and Humanities Faculty at The Derryfield School) explains how to develop close reading skills by creating effective questions closely connected to the text:

Close reading asks students to examine how words unfold by answering text-dependent questions. These questions involve identifying what the text says explicitly as well as what can be inferred from it. Teachers should frame inquiries in ways that do not rely on personal opinion, background information, or imaginative speculation.
- Dr. David Pook, PhD

Text-dependent questions should be written about the specific text that students are reading, and challenge students to go back to the text to dig deeper and to produce evidence about exactly what was written and why. When students gain valuable close reading experience within their science curriculum, they are being equipped for real-world scenarios, stretching their ability to think critically about what they are reading. Furthermore, teachers can look for common themes for lesson topics to provide students with an immersive, 360 degree view of a subject.

Want to Learn More?

For a hands-on workshop on close reading that includes a step-by-step guide on writing effective close reading questions, visit Dr. David Pook’s webinar:

Tip #2 // Inspire Students with Problem-Based Learning

What’s the Strategy?

Problem-based learning can boost student engagement and authentic learning through the investigation of real-world solutions that can be applied to problems both inside and outside the classroom. This method is unique in that it allows students to find a solution to a particular problem that may have more than one outcome. In doing so, it provides students with opportunities to refine their thinking and learn additional skills like knowledge acquisition, investigative research, drawing conclusions, arguing from evidence, communicating with others and working collaboratively. These skills stretch beyond the science classroom and demonstrate usefulness across other disciplines and in future careers.

How Does Problem-Based Learning Integration Help?

The Center for Innovation and Research in Teaching[i] cites several benefits of problem-based learning. Among these benefits are:

  • Critical Thinking: Problem-based learning de-emphasizes memorization, putting students in the driver’s seat and fostering independence, empowerment, and motivation.
  • Activity: Problem-based learning gives students the freedom to take control of their own learning process. They can learn at their own pace, applying principles they’ve mastered and refining principles they’re still developing. Students often seek answers in innovative ways because they feel ownership over the process.
  • Relevancy: Problem-based learning puts the student in relevant situations with skills that are tangible, tactile, and transferrable.
  • Cumulative: Problem-based learning allows students to build upon prior knowledge with increasing difficulty, developing new skills each time a problem is solved.

How Can I Put Problem-Based Learning into Practice?

The following is a straightforward model that can be utilized to help educators put problem-based learning into practice:

  1. Determine or define the problem; for example, “How can we reduce waste in the classroom?”
  2. List what is known about the problem.
  3. Develop a problem statement that comes from the students’ analysis of what they know.
  4. List what information is needed to help solve the problem.
  5. List possible solutions or recommendations.
  6. Present and support a solution.

Want to Learn More?

Learn first hand how Inspire Science integrates problem-based learning in the classroom.

Tip #3 // Inspire Students with Hands-On Learning

What’s the Strategy?

Hands-on learning gives curious and innovative students the ability to ask questions that get to the heart of how or why something occurs. With the ability for students to guide their own learning experience, hands-on learning puts students in charge to figure things out on their own, often tackling a problem as a team or exploring new methods of discovery.

In a study assessing experiential learning… 10 of 14 students taught by the experiential method expressed significantly more positive general attitudes towards their learning experience than did those students exposed to other teaching methods.[i]
Students retain 75% of what they do compared to 5% of what they hear.[ii]

How Does Hands-On Learning Help?

Hands-on learning emphasizes exploration, experimentation and collaboration — benefitting students in the following ways:

  • Relevancy: Hands-on learning puts classroom education into a real-world scenario, taking abstract concepts and making them relevant to real life in a way that can be seen and visualized.
  • Retention: Hands-on learning aids in skills transfer and retention, as many students learn better when they can experience something firsthand and participate in revealing answers.
  • Collaboration: Hands-on learning is often done in groups, fostering teamwork, communication, and interpersonal language skills. Hands-on activities can also be a springboard for healthy discussion, debate, and verbalization amongst students.

How Can I Put Hands-On Learning into Practice?

Hands-on learning can be implemented easily in any classroom with a simple lesson that allows students to get involved. In an article about classroom transformation through hands-on learning, a sixth grade science teacher at Falcon Creek Middle School in Aurora, Colorado saw first hand how hands-on learning sparked the power of curiosity to further his students’ learning. When asked a simple question, “What makes a pillbug, or roly poly, move?” students followed their natural curiosity as they designed, built, and tested their ideas. On their own, students began trying to determine what food pillbugs preferred, as others were wondering which predators pillbugs must avoid. One group wondered if the color of light affected movement and brought in various colored lights to test their hypothesis.[iii] This hands-on approach sparked curiosity and allowed students to engage much further than they may otherwise have.

Want to Learn More?

Take a look at how how Inspire Science integrates hands-on learning into the classroom.

Tip #4 // Inspire Students with Career-Based Learning

What’s the Strategy?

The question “Will I EVER use this in the real world?” is a relevant one that every teacher is asked at some point. If students don’t see a reason to learn something, the interest level can drop dramatically. Career-based learning introduces students to example careers in which the principles learned in the classroom apply to real life scenarios. This can provide students with a motivation for learning as well as a way to tap into a student’s unique interests to introduce them to future professions they may not even know exist.

How Does Career-Based Learning Help?

Leveraging career-based learning can benefit students in the following ways:

  • Motivation: By understanding a practical application to the information that’s being taught in the classroom, students will be more motivated by seeing what their future careers could hold.
  • Inspiration: Students are often inspired by those they admire, so highlighting potential STEM careers can inspire them to think like scientists, engineers, geologists, programmers, biologists, veterinarians, and more — the sky is the limit.
  • Visualization: The science behind visualization is powerful, and when students have an opportunity to see themselves in future careers, the information they’re learning in the classroom becomes real and relevant.

How Do I Put Career-Based Learning into Practice?

McGraw-Hill Education’s Inspire Science has a wealth of videos that tie classroom concepts with real STEM careers so students can become engaged with each lesson. Spend some time at the beginning of class watching these videos with your students and asking them what career they might see themselves filling in the future.

Want to Learn More?

To learn more about how Inspire Science integrates-career based learning into the classroom, visit: http://www.mheonline.com/inspire-science/career_kids

Tip #5 // Inspire Students with Game-Based Learning

What’s the Strategy?

In a recent article titled Nearly Every American Kid Plays Video Games,[iv] a survey indicated that 99% of boys and 94% of girls play video games — with half of the respondents saying that they played a game the previous day. Games are embedded in our culture as a way to have fun, connect, and learn. Integrating game-based learning can create an environment that is highly engaging and tailored to each student. This type of learning inspires creative thinking, builds problem-solving skills, and provides immediate feedback.

“Games also secure a contextual environment that fosters different skill acquisition. Basic skill level starts with eye-hand coordination skills and continues to more complex skills e.g. problem solving skills, communication and collaboration skills, strategic thinking skills, social skills. In a game-like learning environment, learning by doing, active learning, and experiential learning step [into the] foreground.”[v]

How Does Game-Based Learning Help?

Game-based learning can impact learning substantially in the following ways:

  • Engagement: Even those who may not enjoy a highly competitive situation can still benefit from the appeal of games and the engagement they bring — a well-designed game will encourage ongoing participation by rewarding progress at key points. Games also inspire role play, imagination, and include an element of surprise.
“In their preliminary overview of the 77 game studies in the “Digital Games for Learning” report, the authors found “evidence that relative to other instruction condition, digital games showed significant positive positive effects on science, math, and literacy outcomes.” [vi]
  • Personalization: Games can be tailored to each student’s knowledge or skill level, which allows for personalized learning that aligns to a student’s particular abilities and builds upon their unique prior knowledge. The game environment allows teachers to act as facilitators and encourages students to take ownership over their learning.
  • Immediate Feedback: Students don’t have to wait to know whether or not they correctly understand the concept that’s being presented. When coupled with repetitive play opportunities, students can effectively grow their knowledge to overcome challenges as they are presented.
  • Problem Solving Skills: Because games can involve simulations and place students in scenarios “outside” a typical classroom, they can promote the ability to solve problems creativity, with new ways of thinking that sharpen problem solving skills.

How Can I Put Game-Based Learning into Practice?

Award-winning game developer Filament Games develops the games that are a part of the McGraw-Hill Education Inspire Science curriculum. Check out the Filament Games classroom resources page for a wealth of ideas for how to integrate game-based learning in the classroom.

Want to Learn More?

Get a close-up look at how Inspire Science integrates game-based learning into the classroom with practical examples by visiting:

Conclusion

Today’s students will become tomorrow’s innovators — and educators have a responsibility to help them think like innovators, learn like innovators and act like innovators. Creating a learning environment that’s rich with diverse experiences that foster independent, critical thinking will prepare and empower today’s students to solve the challenges of tomorrow.

Inspire Science is an exciting elementary science program that can help transform classrooms and inspire the next generation of innovators by integrating these five critical components into the classroom. Inspire Science aims to help teachers improve student results in STEM by motivating students to become curious and creative problem solvers.

It’s time to make science inspiring! Problem-based learning, hands-on activities and group collaboration help students start thinking and learning like real scientists and engineers! With Inspire Science, students will develop critical-thinking skills and begin to make important connections between what they are learning in the classroom and what’s happening in the world around them. Let us, help you to cultivate curiosity and inspire the next generation of innovators, visionaries, and inventors.

Learn more today at Inspire-Science.com


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