20 Skills that Make STEM "Click"

The 20 Skills that Make STEM Click focus on three core themes:

  • Planning STEM learning experiences
  • Interacting with youth during STEM
  • Building STEM skills in youth

These skills were identified by looking through existing research and resources, as well as by asking frontline facilitators, trainers, and coaches what skills they needed help supporting.

Planning STEM Learning Experiences

1. Selecting STEM Activities

Purpose: To train staff and volunteers to select STEM activities that suit their program and their students’ interests, experiences and needs.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Rate how well a given STEM activity allows youth to learn from hands-on explorations and connect STEM experiences to their daily lives
  • Assemble sources of STEM activities for out-of-school programs
  • Determine if STEM activities are well designed and suited to the unpredictable environment of out-of-school learning and to their specific program’s structure and needs

2. Preparing Yourself to Facilitate STEM

Purpose: To help staff become more confident facilitating STEM activities with youth.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Understand that science learning begins with play and exploration with autonomy, moving toward the science and engineering processes
  • Create an environment of inquiry and learning with youth, rather then just giving the answer when they ask a science related question
  • Organize and implement a STEM-rich activity, with identified learning goals and outcomes​

3. Creating a Safe Space

Purpose: To create a learning space that is safe, engaging, and welcomes student individuality.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Support students through the scientific process, encouraging trial and error in STEM learning environments
  • Promote a mutually respectful, relaxed, supportive environment that is characterized by encouraging new ideas and supporting different perspectives
  • Model ways to give and receive constructive criticism, resolve conflict, and make mistakes

4. Maximizing Your Space

Purpose: To maximize youth engagement by better organizing the learning environment.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Create stimulating and attractive STEM learning environments that generate interest and encourage participation with a sense of creative autonomy
  • Continually engage youth in their environment by going outside as much as possible
  • Stimulate wonder by creating places that are safe, appropriate and feel different from school

5. Connecting with Community Partners

Purpose: Frontline Staff and Volunteers will seek out community partners and utilize their strengths in STEM to enhance programs

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Identify shared goals and develop partnerships with STEM-rich local business/industry
  • Connect youth to community through service learning projects of local interest that promote STEM inquiry
  • Seek out and invite local community partners to engage in their program, providing support to community leaders to encourage working with youth

Interacting with Youth During STEM

6. Sparking Interest in STEM

Purpose: To provide staff with strategies to foster interest, wonder and excitement in STEM.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Describe how sparking interest influences youth motivation and engagement in STEM learning experiences
  • Identify strategies and examples of sustaining interest and engagement in STEM learning
  • Facilitate activities that spark interest in understanding science concepts and developing science and engineering process skills

7. Connecting to Prior Knowledge and Experiences

Purpose: To effectively connect STEM activities to the knowledge and experiences (culture, gender, SES, language and daily experiences) of the youth in their program.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Develop strategies to assess the prior knowledge, context and experiences youth bring to STEM learning
  • Identify needs and interests that are relevant to youth in their program and can serve as access points to engage the youth in science activities
  • Portray science as a real, social, lived experience that is relevant to youth
  • Connect STEM learning to current events/issues and community concerns
  • Connect afterschool STEM activities to what youth are learning in school as well as their lived experiences in their family, community and world

8. Embracing Active STEM Learning

Purpose: To foster curiosity and create active STEM Learning experiences that engage youth.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Recognize expressions of curiosity and sense making and utilize them to enhance STEM learning experiences
  • Facilitate inquiry learning experiences that allow youth to be creative and curious as they explore phenomena in meaningful ways
  • Facilitate individual and group discussions that result in learners connecting ideas and generating their own understanding

9. Giving Youth Control

Purpose: To engage youth in STEM learning by providing opportunities for youth to direct and manage their own learning.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Describe the impact of self-determination, goal setting and decision making in preparing youth to be active learners, users and contributors to the fields of science and engineering
  • Provide youth with a role in determining what is learned, when it is learned or even how it is learned
  • Encourage exploration and creativity in all youth as they engage in STEM activities

10. Group Management During STEM

Purpose: To manage group and individual behavior of youth during STEM activities.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Identify how the structure, environment and interactions between youth and adults contribute to youth behavior and learning
  • Develop strategies for creating a safe and inclusive environment for learning
  • Develop strategies for engaging youth in cooperative teams and developing their skills in working together

11. Asking Purposeful Questions

Purpose: To ask effective questions and give meaningful feedback to increase youth learning in STEM.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Identify how asking youth purposeful questions and providing feedback can lead to increased STEM learning
  • Develop questions that are effective for enhancing STEM learning in their activities
  • Utilize purposeful questions, follow-up prompts and wait time to improve STEM learning experiences

12. Encouraging Collaborative STEM Work

Purpose: To effectively collaborate and interact during STEM learning experiences.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Describe the value of collaborative efforts in terms youth can understand and provide real world examples
  • Portray science as a collaborative effort that involves groups of people working together to solve problems and build explanations of the natural world
  • Facilitate STEM activities in which youth develop the skills to collaborate and cooperate effectively

13. Making Authentic Assessments of STEM Learning

Purpose: To evaluate what is learned by youth before, during and after STEM activities.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Develop strategies to formally or informally evaluate the knowledge, engagement attitudes and skills of youth during and after learning experiences
  • Use information collected about what youth understand and are able to do to make decisions about their teaching and plan learning experiences

14. Reflecting and Processing STEM Experiences

Purpose: To deepen understanding for youth by encouraging reflection and processing of STEM learning experiences.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Facilitate STEM activities that develop understanding of STEM concepts and develop science and engineering process skills
  • Develop strategies and questions that encourage youth to reflect on what they have learned and develop a personal understanding of STEM concepts
  • Guide discussions that help youth make sense of what is happening during STEM activities and understand the science and engineering process skills being developed

Building STEM Skills

15. Supporting Testing and Re-Testing

Purpose: To facilitate STEM learning experiences that encourage youth to test, redesign and optimize their ideas and to accept and learn from failures.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Understand the importance of persistence in learning and develop strategies to help youth understand that success in STEM comes from effort, attention, practice and persistence
  • Develop strategies to encourage and support youth as they attempt new skills with imperfect results
  • Reinforce the understanding that scientists and engineers make mistakes and learn from their failures
  • Facilitate activities that encourage youth to test, redesign and optimize their ideas in science and their solutions in engineering

16. Modeling Science and Engineering Processes

Purpose: To help youth apply science and engineering practices as they investigate questions, solve problems, and develop explanations.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Describe the practices of science and engineering in terms youth can understand
  • Facilitate science investigations: including opportunities for youth to ask questions, define problems, collect data and construct explanations
  • Facilitate methodical problem solving: including defining problems, generating and evaluating solutions. and developing models or prototypes

17. Helping Learners Develop and Expand Explanations

Purpose: To constructively critique explanations in science and design solutions in engineering, and help youth collect and interpret data to support their explanation or design solution.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Encourage youth to develop, refine and share their scientific explanations and design solutions
  • Facilitate activities which allow youth to describe what they are doing and what they are thinking about to others
  • Facilitate activities that encourage youth to ask questions, collect data, interpret data, solve problems, test assumptions and communicate their ideas to others
  • Model practices of science and engineering such as testing assumptions, requiring evidence, seeking alternative ideas and evaluating arguments

18. Supporting Documentation of STEM Learning

Purpose: To foster the use of a variety of documentation strategies in STEM learning experiences.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Understand the importance of conveying STEM concepts in multiple formats; particularly using symbols, drawings, models, diagrams, charts, tables, text or non-verbal means
  • Identify strategies to foster use of a variety of documentation strategies
  • Connect the process of documenting data, observations, inferences and conclusions to real-world scientific processes
  • Connect the process of documenting design ideas, sketches, testing results and design solutions to real-world engineering processes

19. Developing Science and Engineering Identity

Purpose: To support youth in viewing themselves as someone who learns about, uses and sometimes contributes to science – someone who has a personal identity as a science learner.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Describe real-world benefits for youth in developing a personal identity in science and engineering because they understand how youth will benefit from learning about, using and contributing to science and engineering now and in the future
  • Identify strategies for engaging youth in science and engineering and developing a positive attitude toward science
  • Facilitate STEM activities that engage youth as learners, users and contributors to the fields of science and engineering

20. Making Connections to STEM Careers

Purpose: To present STEM career pathways and the practical application of basic STEM skills that professionals use on a day-to-day basis.

Outcome: Staff will learn to

  • Connect STEM learning to career pathways for youth.
  • ​Identify options that youth have as part of the future STEM workforce.
  • Introduce positive STEM role models that youth can relate to in the real world.
  • Connect real-world STEM skills to activities they are facilitating.