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4 Key Components of Quality STEM Projects

As educators, it is our role to create an environment conducive to high student engagement. In my classroom, one way I have learned to maintain student interest in a subject is by putting them in the driver’s seat.

Developing quality STEM projects requires an investment from the student in their learning. By giving students ownership of the content, they’ll be more motivated to learn.

Rather than asking students to memorize abstract concepts, STEM-based projects allow students to solve problems in the context of the real world. Using real-world problems answers the commonly asked question, “Why is this important, especially if I can Google it?” However, as educators embarking on a new way to approach lessons, we have to reverse our ways of planning with the end in mind. STEM-based projects cannot be planned in a traditional format where teachers have a specific end goal for students to reach. I have discovered that learning with STEM is a journey, and it cannot be confined to preconceived barriers.

When launching a quality STEM project, consider the following four components.


1. A Driving Question

What part of our curricula is most attractive to our students? This answer will be different depending on each and every student. Structuring the lesson around a driving question will direct the path of your students’ learning. A driving question can be around a real world phenomenon or a topic which students have some knowledge of, but want to explore further. Some driving questions I have used in my classroom include, “How have human choices impacted the environment?” and “How can we help reverse the effects of pollution on our local environment?”

2. Solve A Problem

3. Opportunities to Redesign

4. Multiple Assessment Methods


A driving question hooks your students and pulls their learning into a real world format. STEM projects facilitate connections to be made in the journey of learning rather than at the beginning or end of an instructional sequence. This sense of ownership helps to build the 21st century learners that are leading our future.

About the Author

Ginger Berry is a middle school teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools.

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