Cache County School District, public information office

SIERRA, AN ENTHUSIASTIC 6th grader from Sunrise Elementary, loves to experiment. She and her classmates created a rubber band car without following any stepby-step directions — they had to figure it out themselves. After realizing their first design did not work, they kept exploring until they discovered a working model. “My favorite
part about problem-solving is that you have to find different ways to do it,” Sierra said. “The first thing you try doesn’t always work.”

This ability to creatively solve problems is a key aspect of the STEM program. STEM, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, is a national initiative that promotes education in those subjects. A similar acronym, STEAM, adds an “A” to include the arts. Through STEM and STEAM curriculums, students participate in hands-on activities and experiments. However, many consider STEM to be a mindset rather than a curriculum. It is a mindset that increases human capacity for inquiry, collaboration, teamwork, resilience, and perseverance.

STEM is thriving in Cache County School District and students across the Valley are participating in many of the same experiences as Sierra. Computer Science instruction occurs in all elementary schools. In many schools, STEM specialists engage the students in activities 30 to 40 minutes a week. After-school robotics and STEM clubs are also available in many CCSD schools.

Teachers throughout Cache County School District also implement STEM strategies and learning in their classrooms. Rather than presenting a problem to students and telling them exactly what to do, teachers ask questions like, “How will you approach this problem?” “What tools can we use?” “What do you know that can help you solve this problem?” These questions help students develop inquiry and problem-solving skills that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Through STEM integration in classes, students create rubber band vehicles, program animal bots, experiment with gravity and sail cars, build trebuchets, paint with ferrofluid watercolors, and investigate centrifugal force with spin art. They observe animals’ adaptations in science, perform in puppet shows with background electrical lights made out of circuits, and make slime dance with non-Newtonian fluid.

STEM Nights are another favorite learning activity, where family and friends are invited to experience STEM along with their students. Volunteers from the school, Parent Teacher Organization (PTA), and community join to offer a variety of engaging, hands-on activities. Students have the opportunity to connect with community partners representing STEM careers and industries. Schools partner with businesses and university clubs to provide
real-life examples of STEM careers. Visitors demonstrate how science, engineering, mathematics, and technology are used to solve problems in the world.

“Education is no longer only about facts — it is about how you think,” explained district K-6 STEM specialist Beverly
Sanders. “STEM is integrated into the approach to instruction, particularly in math and science, with the use of
technology and engineering design to solve problems. Students are doing the investigation. They’re designing and
developing integrated knowledge to explain, expand, and elaborate on the world they live in. They’re increasing their
capacity to communicate knowledge in coherent, clear ways.”