Explore careers in STEM
Next Generation Science Standards Skills Sheet
A Career in STEM Activity Sheet
Pen or pencil
Access to Internet
Warm-up Discussion: Dealing with Environmental Issues
1. Pose this question to your class:
How do people go about finding solutions to environmental problems? Where do they begin?
What are some general ways to deal with environmental issues? Explain that there are three main tactics:
- Help outlaw inflicting harm upon endangered species (i.e., contact local government officials, etc., with ideas/suggestions for legislation to protect endangered species).
- Repair something that has been damaged (i.e., clean up trash from beaches).
- Find a new and improved way to do something (i.e., drive an electric car versus a gas-fueled vehicle to reduce air pollution).
3. Tackling many environmental problems involves a combination of these solutions. Ask students to think of a way all three could be used to deal with the problem of deforestation (i.e., make it illegal to log trees to protect those that remain; plant new seedlings to regrow the forest; find an alternative to wood as a building material, so there’s less need to cut down trees in the future).
Main Lesson: Environmental Innovations
Step 1: Explain that many times fixing an environmental problem requires a new and creative innovation—a method, idea, or invention that fills a need or improves people's lives.
Step 2: Share the following examples of environmental innovations with your class. Display the websites using a computer and projector or interactive whiteboard:
Curbside Composting: People throw away up to 40 percent of the food they buy, but cities are working to recycle that waste into something useful: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/09/why-doesnt-your-city-have-curbside-composting
Ocean Cleanup: A teenager has an ambitious plan to remove plastic pollution from the world's oceans: http://inhabitat.com/19-year-olds-ocean-cleanup-array-could-clean-half-the-pacific-garbage-patch-in-10-years-study-shows/
Purifying the Air: An engineering university in Peru has developed a billboard that scrubs pollution out of the air: http://time.com/84013/this-billboard-sucks-pollution-from-the-sky-and-returns-purified-air/
Greener Cooking: A new fuel to power cookstoves could help reduce deforestation in poor nations: http://mashable.com/2013/08/23/emerging-cooking-solutions/
Urban Farms: People are finding ways to grow food just about everywhere—even in the middle of a bustling city: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-02/11/underground-farm-zero-carbon-food
Sharing the Road: Many cities have come up with a way to help people get around town on bikes instead of in cars: http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3757174
Step 3: Engage students in a classroom discussion about the innovations by asking:
Would some of the ideas be harder to put into action than others? Why?
Describe some of the inventors' thought processes. How did they come up with their ideas? What do you think is the key to creating a useful environmental innovation?
Wrap-up Activity: Using the Student Worksheet
1. Many environmental innovations have a technological component, even urban farming and bike shares. Technology is one of the basic building blocks of STEM. Ask: Has anyone heard of this acronym before? What does it stand for? (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.)
2. Explain that there are many types of careers in STEM fields. Ask:
Can you name some types of STEM professionals?
3. Distribute copies of the A Career in STEM Activity Sheet to each student. Have students use the resources listed to investigate a STEM career that piques their interests. Note: They'll need access to the Internet. Then have students create an informational and inspirational TED-style talk (the Sapling Foundation's Technology Entertainment Design conferences) about their chosen career and its societal importance. For their talk to be most effective, provide the following tips:
Connect with your audience by including personal stories about people who work in this field and why this career would be a good fit for you.
Share facts about your chosen career that are surprising or interesting.
Use different forms of media, like videos, audio, and graphics, to help drive your points home and keep the audience interested.
End your talk with a question-and-answer session.
4. The activity shows students the wide variety of careers in fields they may not have considered STEM. Further challenge their ideas by asking: Can you think of a career outside of science, technology, engineering, and math that still requires STEM skills? For example, fashion designers need good math skills to be able to measure patterns and size clothing, as well as run a successful business. They also need to be able to use technology to draw and share their designs.