Educating students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is a priority for the U.S. government. As such, it created a strategic plan for STEM education in 2013 that included suggestions such as providing quality instructional materials and professional development opportunities to STEM teachers. These components are essential to STEM education because they are necessary for creating effective lesson plans, which in turn shape STEM learning.
Many prominent organizations have responded to this need by offering support to STEM teachers. Support from these organizations is essential for improving STEM education in the U.S. Here are four organizations that offer free STEM lesson plans for teachers: Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Scholastic Inc., Microsoft, and the National Geographic Society.
PBS launched in 1969 as a nonprofit organization providing noncommercial and educational television programming. Possessing a network of 350 television stations, it serves the entire United States. PBS also operates digital platforms, including web-based streaming video and mobile apps. Additionally, PBS provides outreach to classrooms across the country through PBS LearningMedia. Through this service, PBS offers STEM lesson plans, which include media resources and other materials, step-by-step instructions, and assessment standards.
Science lessons provided by PBS LearningMedia cover grade levels ranging from Pre-K through college. Topics within these science lessons encompass earth and space science; life science; physical science; the practices and nature of science; and instrumentation, measurement, and units. Some of the most popular science lessons offered by PBS include sound vibrations, gravity and falling objects, the circulatory system, the life cycles of plants, and electric circuits.
PBS also offers mathematics lesson plans, which, like science lessons, cover various grade levels. Topics within these lessons include K-8 mathematics, high school number and quantity, high school algebra, high school functions, high school geometry, and high school statistics and probability. Some of PBS’s most popular mathematics lesson plans concentrate on using recipes to add fractions, measure angles, graph in a coordinate plane, and understand multiplication as combinations.
2. Scholastic, Inc.
Scholastic began as a classroom magazine in 1920 and has since expanded to provide educational books and materials to schools and homes across the country. Scholastic’s mission is to improve children’s literacy. To this end, outside of its publishing business, Scholastic operates book fairs, book clubs, blogs, and social media accounts as part of its outreach efforts.
Scholastic also offers STEM lesson plans in partnership with the Arconic Foundation, which provides grants to organizations that focus on advancing STEM education and training, particularly for underrepresented groups. Another of the Arconic Foundation’s special emphases is promoting manufacturing careers. The free STEM lesson plans offered by Scholastic fit all of these criteria.
The first lesson plan is about designing like an eco-engineer, with a focus on the steps involved in the engineering design process, as well as on the problem of plastics in the environment. The second lesson is about engineering innovative materials and developing alternative energy vehicles, including information about costs, materials, manufacturing, and environmental impacts. The third lesson is about the role of robotics in automobile manufacturing with a focus on blending business concepts with STEM education. All three lessons culminate in projects that students can enter into a contest sponsored by Scholastic and the Arconic Foundation.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft is a leading technology company that has grown over the years to provide computer operating systems, productivity and business software, gaming hardware and software, server software, Internet-based communication capabilities, and mobile devices. Its mission is to empower individuals and organizations to achieve more. As part of this mission, Microsoft Education focuses on empowering teachers and students through technology.
One way that Microsoft aims to empower teachers and students is by providing STEM lesson plans. The lessons are targeted toward middle school classrooms, and with 23 lessons available, the topics are varied. From making a battery out of a lemon and exploring ocean currents to comparing speeds, a wide range of STEM skills are highlighted. With some lessons taking only 15 minutes and others taking weeks, teachers are sure to find something that suits to their needs.
4. National Geographic
A nonprofit organization devoted to global exploration and problem solving, the National Geographic Society aims to create a sustainable future in spite of negative human impacts on the world, inspire people to value the natural world and its citizens, and promote innovation aimed at creating a balanced planet. National Geographic Education is one of the tools that the organization provides to reach these goals.
The STEM lesson plans provided by National Geographic Education are geared toward pre-K through college-age students. Geography, earth science, and biology are the main subjects covered by the lesson plans. A sample of lesson topics includes determining how to feed a growing population, deciding whether to build an oil pipeline, considering the human impact on the world’s oceans, farming for the future, choosing energy sources, thinking about ecosystem imbalances, and using a geographic perspective.