Scientific teaching method promotes deeper questions, answers

Posted February 6, 2012

— There's a national push to help students focus on science, technology, engineering and math. 

Schools with that emphasis, called STEM schools, have special technology facilitators and foreign language instructors designed to get kids ready for the 21st Century. 

At York Elementary School, the STEM curriculum turns almost every classroom into a mini-science fair. Students use a scientific approach to solve problems.

"You ask yourself, 'What's the problem here?' Then you can imagine how you solve this problem and work it out," fifth grader Alexandra Vincent said. "And you plan what you're going to do exactly."

By weaving science, technology, engineering and math into lessons throughout the day, STEM schools promote more critical thinking and problem solving. 

"The questions are higher order thinking," teacher Alicen Lynch said. "The answers are deeper."

Five schools in Wake County – three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school – became STEM schools in 2011. 

Kids at these schools are also getting a chance to work with technology more often. Each grade level has about 30 iPads that students can use to record and photograph experiments. 

And the change in approach doesn't just impact students. Teachers have to change their game as well. 

"I think to myself, "The things I'm teaching them now, I personally didn't learn about until seventh or eighth grade,'" Lynch said. "It kind of blows my mind, you know?"

York Elementary, Hilburn Drive Elementary Aversboro Elementary, Carroll Middle School and Knightdale High School all became STEM schools in August. They are part of a statewide group of schools all dedicated to enhanced strategic planning, professional development, programming and community advocacy around the core topics within the curriculum. York Elementary School York Elementary using STEM teaching method

And while the STEM approach has only been available at York Elementary for a few months, it's already changing the minds of some students.

"Before I only wanted to become a dancer," Vincent said. "Now, I'm leaning toward a scientist."

York Elementary will hold a STEM expo March 24. 


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • grumpyhermit Feb 7, 2012

    Sometimes I think WRAL runs stories like this just so they can get a hoot out of the comments.

    Science promotes critical thinking and stringent review of results by people not connected to the research in question.

    I personally see no conflict between belief in evolution and belief in religion. I believe God created the universe along the lines that science has described, and, given the enormous lengths of time involved, that evolution makes perfect sense.

  • Krimson Feb 6, 2012

    "It's easy to understand how someone would reject creationism. It requires faith, and if you don't believe, of course you would reject it. But it is far more difficult to figure out how someone who claims to be a "critical" thinker could possibly accept Evolution's tenants, with what must be thousands of questionable assumptions. One human eye disproves it."

    Be careful... Your statement(s) above shows you have NO understanding of the Scientific Method...

    And "tenants" are those that occupy a structure (renters). "Tenets" are principles on which a beliefs or theories are based.

  • unc70 Feb 6, 2012


    I mostly agree with you about rhetoric, language, literature, logic and reasoning, etc. which along with history, philosophy, math, and science are what are considered a "liberal arts" education.

    Those are the skills need to be a proper citizen in a society, coming down from the classical education and the Socratic method. Learning the "rules" but looking beyond them, questioning everything, exploring alternatives, presenting and defending ones ideas under the scrutiny and questioning by others in public and in private.

    At the college level, you still find this at smaller schools such as Davidson and to a great degree at UNC Chapel Hill. To survive in an ever-more-rapidly changing world, one does best by knowing the rules and knowing when they no longer apply. Newton does not explain quarks.

  • veyor Feb 6, 2012

    You evolutionists are really faithful....but truth does not depend on approval for its existence.

  • jbpd-tarpack Feb 6, 2012

    STEM helps students develop problem solving skills that translate into every subject, not just science, math, technology, and engineering. As to having "one right answer" - the answer is dependent upon what we know. There was a time that people thought that the correct answer was that the world was flat. Through experimentation and exploration, they learned that the world is round. We have only begun to learn answers to many questions and as we learn more - we have to revise our past thinking of how things work. This lesson is one that everyone at any age can benefit from.

    I have a strong faith that has never been questioned by my belief in science. I was given a mind to use and to ask questions. Students are not lessening their religious beliefs by learning more, but realizing how amazing it is that everything works the way that it does!

  • Jeremiah Feb 6, 2012

    Very good point CamelWolfCat. I hope that literature, law, and rhetoric aren't neglected. But of all those, I think science is the most important for the advancement of a society.

  • CamelWolfCat Feb 6, 2012

    STEM is great, but literature, law, and rhetoric all teach critical thinking. Problem is not lack of science, it's lack of critical thinking. The best scientists are not those who only know test tubes and differential equations. Those folks are generally boring, present oriented folks. The best scientists and other critical thinkers also understand aesthetics and look to the future.

    We as a society are too preoccupied with quick fixes and how to make money without exerting effort to understand these nuances most of the time.

  • couponwife Feb 6, 2012

    There are quite a few teachers at non-STEM schools who teach with problem-solving strategies. I've met and observed quite a few teachers who give their students an opportunity to examine the problem, figure out how to solve it, etc. They become more inquisitive thinkers and ultimately will be the ones who drive our economic growth. Students don't have to be at a STEM school to benefit from this new program in Wake - funded by RAce to the Top, if I'm not mistaken. There are a ton of teachers who appreciate students who can look at a situation, find the problem, and work on ways of solving it (and learning what they need to know to solve said problem). It's GREAT!!

  • haggis basher Feb 6, 2012

    "The greatest scientists in the world were never exposed to STEM."

    The point is how many great scientists did we lose without it........

  • haggis basher Feb 6, 2012

    "If you don't believe in the scientific method, the next time you get sick don't get in my way at the hospital... stay home and pray!"

    And preferably do this before you have children so that you can do your part to for evolution.......