The Unseen Nexus: Bridging the Gap Between STEM and Environmental Education
Educator communities on Facebook can be an excellent resource for free lesson plans and ideas. Photo Credit: Luca Summarco / Pexels
Online educator communities, particularly within the realms of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), have entranced me. Here's a casual weeknight journey for me: Scrolling STEM educator Facebook groups to explore innovative ideas, strategies, and resources generously exchanged among K–12 STEM educators, all free of charge.
For example, in one such group, someone posted a request for ideas that would use empty shoeboxes donated to their elementary school. This post generated over 200 suggestions, including comprehensive lesson plans, slide decks, and even entire learning units, all of which were ingeniously centered on the STEM applications of shoeboxes.
Amidst these treasure troves of resources, I stumbled upon an environmental or E-STEM gem: a teacher was having their students use stop-motion photography to document their step-by-step model design for a trash capture device made of Lego bricks. This integration of technology and engineering skills in solving an environmental issue was so inspiring to me that I immediately learned how to perform stop motion photography and busted out my child’s Lego set to give it a try.
"STEM Lessons about the Environment Not Seen as EE"
About two months ago I wrote a post in one of these groups inviting teachers to share their favorite environmentally-themed STEM lessons to feature on eePRO. Imagine my surprise when despite the wealth of resources related to environmental sustainability I had already witnessed, my initial post garnered zero responses.
After a few attempts to bump the post with comments about NAAEE and E-STEM, I finally did a separate post asking group followers why they didn’t respond and included a snapshot of my initial post.
Here I finally got some responses, and the prevailing consensus was striking: educators failed to perceive their STEM lessons—even those directly addressing environmental issues—as environmental education (EE), and so they didn’t think their ideas belonged on NAAEE.
This revelation underscored an inherent disconnect that I feel is still happening worldwide, where STEM education continues to be treated as distinct from EE. Or, perhaps what it really is, is that EE is still being considered distinct or “less than” all of the other core educational subjects.
An Imperative Need for Facilitators to Help K–12 Educators Bridge the Gap
What I can say I learned from this experience is that there is an imperative need for facilitators and organizations to help K–12 educators bridge the gap between STEM and environmental education. Recognizing the interwoven nature of these disciplines is pivotal. The untapped potential lies not merely in the abundant resources exchanged within these communities but in fostering a deeper realization of how STEM inherently intertwines with environmental education. It's a clarion call to transcend boundaries, viewing these disciplines not as isolated silos but as synergistic components that can work in unison toward a sustainable future.
Bridge the Gap
Obtain communication tools to connect EE and STEM.
By integrating environmental topics into STEM lessons, educators can imbue their teachings with a holistic understanding, empowering students to comprehend the wider impact of their actions in this world.
What ideas or experiences do you have in integrating environmental themes into STEM education? Join the conversation and let's propel this transformative educational shift together.
About the Writer
Allison Martin is a dedicated professional whose journey in environmental interpretation began in 2008. With a passion for education, she transitioned to becoming a water and waste education program manager and curriculum specialist. In November 2021, she founded Blueblossom Consulting. Through her venture, Allison is committed to strengtheninging organizations, municipalities, and school districts to enhance their environmental education programs and services. She is also a co-moderator for the E-STEM Education eePRO Group.