Real STEM: An Interdisciplinary STEM Program
The integration of STEM programs within the educational framework through the establishment of STEM-designated schools and academic/career pathways is a national trend in the United States. The goal of implementing STEM in grade 6 to 12 schools is to prepare students for the demands of the 21st century, while addressing future workforce needs. Often, however, the STEM disciplines are taught within silos independent of each other. Students miss the opportunity to participate in the interrelationship between the STEM disciplines, resulting in missed opportunities to build critical reasoning skills. The Real STEM project focused on the development of interdisciplinary STEM experiences for students. The project was characterized by sustained professional development which was job-embedded and competency-based, and focused on the development of five STEM reasoning abilities within real-world contexts. To accomplish this we promoted inclusion of tasks that drew on multiple STEM disciplines, embraced the use of authentic teaching strategies, and supported development of collaboration through interdisciplinary STEM professional learning communities within the school and STEM experts from the community. The four tenets of the Real STEM project are presented, research on impact on teacher practice is provided, and school and teacher takeaways are discussed.