Real Life Problem Solving Activities

In your STEM class, each team of students might choose a different approach for solving the problem, and several different solutions may work.

Give them as much autonomy as possible to identify problems they want to solve, within the constraints dictated by the curriculum.

You might start by asking students to be on the alert for problems in their home, school, or community.

Working on solutions to real-world problems is the heart of any STEM investigation.

These solutions may include devices and designs that improve our lives, fulfill our needs or wants, and make our world better.

Engineering solutions for a problem involving clean energy, such as wind turbines or solar cells, might be realistic.

However, tackling a problem involving interplanetary space travel—not so much.Online Resources So how do you focus your online research to target problems that students can approach with a STEM lens?Some of my go-to search options include: • If you need a jumping-off point, take a look at the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges.When my students and I draw a blank, these are some of the tactics I use: • Encourage students to come up with the problem.This approach typically generates the most enthusiasm and buy-in from students.From designing a better pen to figuring out how to assist areas lacking access to clean drinking water, the opportunity to search for solutions to real-world problems fuels students’ curiosity and sparks their investigative interests.Perhaps the most important consequence of students working on real problems is that they begin to develop empathy—a sense that there is something worth dedicating their efforts to outside of themselves.In my experience as a STEM teacher, identifying authentic problems that students can work on is one of the most challenging parts of lesson planning.Here are some of the criteria I consider when selecting real-world problems: • The problem must be real.• Take a stop at the Boston Museum of Science for comprehensive and well-designed engineering curriculum targeting all age groups.The museum’s Engineering Everywhere Curriculum Units offer free STEM lessons that focus on unique and interesting real-world challenges.

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